Updated at 5:43 p.m.
The UVM Health Network announced Thursday that it has appointed Dr. Sunil “Sunny” Eappen, a Boston-based physician and health administrator, as its next president and chief executive officer.
Eappen comes from Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where he serves as chief medical officer and senior vice president of medical affairs. He is also an associate professor at Harvard Medical School, according to a press release issued by the UVM Health Network.
Eappen is scheduled to start at Vermont’s largest health care provider on Nov. 28. He will replace Dr. John Brumsted, who is retiring after more than 10 years in the role.
Eappen said at a press conference that his annual salary would be $1.3 million. Brumsted earned $1.99 million in compensation, which includes his salary and other benefits, in 2020, according to the Burlington Free Press.
During the interview process, Eappen toured two affiliates in Vermont and northern New York and met with dozens of staff. “I was so impressed by how everyone is mission oriented,” he said, calling the network “a model for how our country ought to provide great quality health care for all of its residents.”
Eappen also noted that the network faces “incredible financial challenges” from cost inflation and the lasting effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
UVM Health Network’s three Vermont hospitals — the University of Vermont Medical Center, Central Vermont Medical Center and Porter Medical Center — are awaiting approval of proposed double-digit budget increases from the Green Mountain Care Board this month. The network also has three hospitals in northern New York and an assisted living facility in Colchester.
Asked about the current challenges, Eappen said he hopes the network “will be able to continue to be more efficient and more integrated in the way that we deliver care.”
“The finances really do matter here, right? Because if we don't have enough resources to take care of our employees, our faculty and staff, and be able to deliver care, that will have an impact on our residents,” he said. “So I’m concerned about that. But I'm also excited about it.”
Brigham and Women’s Hospital has seen its share of financial challenges as well. The hospital was forced to cut $50 million from its budget in 2016 to prevent operating at a loss, according to Stat News.
The hospital network finished the first year of the pandemic with $128 million in operating gains, but reported a $120 million operating loss just a year later, Fierce Healthcare reported.
Eappen said he was “excited” to work with Vermont regulators and hopes their interactions will drive the network to be “as efficient and as good as it could possibly be.”
“Our goals are really aligned,” he said. “Meaning that the Green Mountain Care Board, and the University of Vermont Health Network, care about the health of its residents.”
Mike Fisher, chief health care advocate at Vermont Legal Aid, said via email Eappen would take the helm of an “immensely important institution” to the Vermont health care system.
That health care system has a lot of vulnerabilities from both a hospital perspective and from a consumer affordability perspective, Fisher wrote.
“Dr. Eappen and the UVM team have a very challenging task to find stability for the Hospital and make sure Vermonters don’t have more and more financial barriers to getting the care they need,” he wrote.
At Brigham and Women’s, which is a part of the Mass General Brigham hospital network, Eappen also served as interim president of the hospital for nine months in 2021 and led its diversity, equity and inclusion efforts beginning in 2020.
Eappen said he would bring diversity to the UVM Health Network with his own hiring, adding that he believes in the value of diversity of people and opinions in the health care system.
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