PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Care New England President and CEO Dr. James Fanale is retiring, 12 News has learned, creating a vacancy in another one of the most important leadership positions in Rhode Island health care.

Fanale told 12 News he had been in discussions with the board of directors about a leadership transition for several months. He expects to remain in place as CEO into early next year, and then stay on for a few more years to assist his successor with the transition, he said.

“When you’re a physician, and a health care system leader, you can see the result of your actions,” Fanale, also a practicing geriatrician, said in a statement. “There is a personal reward that can never be matched. I wish that for everyone, no matter what industry they are in.”

Care New England, Rhode Island’s second-largest hospital group, is the owner of Women & Infants, Kent and Butler hospitals. The organization has roughly 7,500 workers, making it one of the state’s largest employers.

Charles Reppucci, Care New England’s board chair, said the organization owed Fanale “a debt of gratitude.” Fanale said he had declined an offer to remain in place through at least 2025.

Repucci said a search committee for the new CEO would include Fanale as well as board members, other executives and clinical leaders.

Fanale’s departure comes shortly after the leader of Rhode Island’s biggest hospital group, Lifespan President and CEO Dr. Timothy Babineau, unexpectedly announced he would be stepping down at the end of May.

The changes at the top come at a challenging time for both hospital groups, after their proposed merger was rejected by regulators in February and as each one faces financial headwinds.

Care New England’s operations lost $35 million during the first six months of its current fiscal year, which ended March 31. That compares with an operating profit of $42 million during the same period last year, when the organization benefited from tens of millions of dollars in COVID relief funds. However, patient revenue was up 6% year over year.

The failure of the Lifespan merger has left Care New England once again in search of a new merger partner, an effort that has been ongoing for much of the last decade, including aborted attempts to join forces with Mass General Brigham and Southcoast Health.

Fanale has previously indicated Care New England plans to begin exploring alternative merger options this spring and summer, but has not provided an update so far.

Fanale has led Care New England since the start of 2018, when he replaced Dennis Keefe. He earned about $1.5 million in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2020, according to the most recent available tax filing by Care New England.

Ted Nesi ( is a Target 12 investigative reporter and 12 News politics/business editor. He co-hosts Newsmakers and writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook