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Care New England Confident in Partners Deal Despite Torchiana's Retirement

Analysis  |  By Steven Porter  
   January 29, 2019

The unexpected retirement announcement comes amid what one unnamed source told The Boston Globe was 'a lot of friction' between the Partners CEO and leaders at the system's major Boston hospitals.

Care New England Health System (CNE) doesn't expect this week's retirement announcement from Partners HealthCare CEO David Torchiana, MD, to derail a pending deal between the two systems.

CNE, based in Providence, Rhode Island, said in a statement Tuesday that Torchiana's planned departure this April "will have no impact on our ability to finalize this important transaction" with the Boston-based system, which is being reviewed by Rhode Island regulators.

The optimistic note from CNE comes despite a report by The Boston Globe's Priyanka Dayal McCluskey and Liz Kowalczyk citing an unnamed source to suggest the retirement was announced amid "a lot of friction" between Torchiana and hospital leaders within the Partners system, some of whom were reportedly displeased with the plan to grow into Rhode Island.

Partners is the largest health system in Massachusetts and includes both Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women's Hospital. It acquired the specialty teaching hospital Massachusetts Eye and Ear last April and secured approval last month from federal regulators to acquire CNE as well.

Related: Lifespan Drops Partnership Talks With Care New England, Partners

Partners had been in merger talks with insurer Harvard Pilgrim, but those discussions ended last November amid concerns that regulators might not sign off.

Despite its dominance among healthcare providers in the Boston market, Partners may be feeling some pressure from Lahey Health's merger with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center forming the market's second-largest health system.

"We welcome the competition," Partners Chief Financial Officer Peter Markell told the Boston Business Journal last month, brushing aside any notion of a new competitive threat from the combined Beth Israel Lahey Health. "We are not afraid, worried or whatever. We believe in ourselves."

In a statement released Tuesday to HealthLeaders and other media outlets, Torchiana expressed "full confidence in the future of our organization."

Partners Board of Directors Chair Scott Sperling told employees that Torchiana—a cardiothoracic surgeon commonly known by the nickname "Torch"—informed the board Monday evening of his intent to retire, after serving as president and CEO since March 2015.

"This is something that I know Torch has been contemplating for some time," Sperling said in a statement released publicly Tuesday. "Torch has been a valued leader, and he has led this organization in a thoughtful and effective manner."

Sperling said the board will begin the task of launching on a national search for Torchiana's successor in the coming weeks.

Torchiana's planned retirement is effective April 29.

Steven Porter is an associate content manager and Strategy editor for HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.


After nearly four years on the job, the CEO of Boston-based Partners HealthCare has announced his planned retirement.

Local media reports suggest there may be tension between the outgoing CEO and hospital leaders within the Partners system.

Care New England said the CEO's retirement "will have no impact" on their planned acquisition.

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