Chemed Corp. (NYSE: CHE) VITAS Healthcare has appointed Alexander Fernandez as its CFO and executive vice president (EVP).
Fernandez oversees the Florida-based hospice company’s finances, investor relations and accounting functions. He will also help to drive VITAS’ growth, accelerate positive financial trends and ensure compliance.
Fernandez joins the company at a crucial point in its trajectory, as the company continues to battle workforce challenges and lingering pandemic headwinds.
“I am thrilled to be joining VITAS at such a pivotal point in the organization’s history,” Fernandez said in a statement. “I look forward to partnering with this team and all its employees, immersing myself in the culture and executing on strategies that ultimately contribute to ensuring VITAS as the premier provider of end-of-life care.”
A licensed CPA in Georgia and Florida, Fernandez has more than two decades of experience in financial, administrative and leadership roles across the health care industry. Before joining VITAS, Fernandez served as CFO and senior vice president of Broward Health. He started at the Florida-based health system in 2014 as CFO of the Broward Health Medical Center and Salah Foundation Children’s Hospital.
Prior to that, Fernandez was COO of Tenet Healthcare Corp.’s (NYSE: THC) Good Samaritan Medical Center. He held the role for two years after serving as CFO at Tenet’s North Shore Medical Center from 2006 to 2012.
At VITAS, Fernandez is responsible for improving the company’s financial infrastructure to support its ongoing growth plans. This includes its ability to scale financial strategies across the individual markets in its national footprint, VITAS indicated in a press release.
VITAS will likely leverage their new CFO’s familiarity with the Florida market, a key growth region for the company. It has opened a rash of de novos and inpatient facilities throughout the state in recent years.
A healthy bottom line will be critical to supporting VITAS’ growth goals, according to President and CEO Nick Westfall.
“He [Alex] earned his well-known reputation in the south Florida health care community based upon his proven track record of success within each role throughout his career,” Westfall said. “I’m very excited for Alex to join our team and help lead the ongoing transformation of our company to fulfill our mission of providing high-quality care to more members of the communities we serve across the country each and every day.”
Established in 1978, Miami-headquartered VITAS operates 50 hospice programs in 14 states and the District of Columbia. The company has roughly 9,800 employees that provide advanced illness care to 17,783 patients in the home, in the company’s 26 hospice inpatient units and in facility- and hospital-based settings.
The ability to reinforce its clinical workforce is key to VITAS’ growth, according to Westfall. This includes having the financial means to recruit and retain clinical staff.
“We want to be able to add clinical capacity to absorb the demand we see, and we’re still ramping up to that,” Westfall said in a Q4 2022 earnings call. “The bottom line is, as long as we can continue to improve our retention, improve our hiring, resulting in net growth to have clinical capacity, then we feel really good about the other operating metrics.”
VITAS last year implemented a recruitment and retention bonus program. The program included a one-time retention payment ranging from $2,000 to $15,000 per employee for nurses, nurse managers, social workers and home health aides.
VITAS reported seeing staffing gains since the initiative’s launch in July 2022, most recently adding 275 newly hired licensed clinicians, including 103 during Q4. Improved staffing volumes spurred upward movement in the company’s patient census, admissions and length of staff, according to Westfall.