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Peter leaving top spot at Vero hospital

Dr. David Peter, vice president and chief medical officer at Cleveland Clinic Indian River Hospital, has resigned from what for the past year and a half has been the top position here, serving out his final day this past Friday.

“Due to some personal reasons within my family, it’s important that I spend significant time in Northeast Ohio close to family, friends, kids and grandkids,” Dr. Peter told Vero Beach 32963. “What the next thing looks like is going to be determined, but at this point it does look like it would be something with Cleveland Clinic.”

Dr. Peter joined Vero Beach’s largest hospital as chief medical officer in 2019, a month after Cleveland Clinic took over operation of the hospital and just before the onset of COVID-19.

In 2022, when the hospital’s president, Dr. Greg Rosencrance, left for a position in West Virginia, Dr. Peter was first named to replace him as “interim president,” and then given the top job permanently with the title vice president and chief medical officer.

His leadership role during his five years here included the administration and management of hospital programs and initiatives, spearheading quality improvement projects in hospital and outpatient settings, and strategically driving the growth of service lines and hospital development.

There were plenty of problems during the complicated transition as Cleveland Clinic took over the hospital and integrated it into its sprawling healthcare enterprise, which consists of 80,642 caregivers, 23 hospitals and 276 outpatient facilities in locations around the globe.

Among the hurdles Dr. Peter and Cleveland Clinic inherited were outdated computer and phone systems that were incompatible with Cleveland Clinic corporate systems, causing phone lines to be overloaded and calls to go unanswered or be rerouted to Cleveland Clinic’s Florida medical center in Weston during the critical roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine in December 2020.

But the frustrations frequently ended with successes. Perhaps the biggest was the implementation of the EPIC electronic medical record platform – a major change from antiquated home-grown systems. Updating the technology proved an enormous challenge, but Vero now has a system that gives doctors and patients access to the most up-to-date information needed for world-class care.

“Dr. Peter transformed Cleveland Clinic Indian River Hospital,” said Dr. Richard Rothman, vice-chief of the Integrated Hospital Care Institute, Florida Region.

Dr. Rothman said he also partnered with Dr. Peter and “worked closely with him to create the Hospital Care at Home program.

“The program was a culmination of three years of work between enterprise and regional market-based leadership. The final year was spent on implementation and design to which David was intimately involved. He was also instrumental in bringing the enterprise command center for Hospital Care at Home to Vero Beach. Hospital at Home has now been expanded to Tradition Medical Center, Martin South Hospital, and Martin North Hospital and just this week we admitted our 1,000th patient.”

During his years here, Cleveland Clinic also added and expanded medical specialties such as cardiology, neurology (including thrombectomy-ready facility for stroke services), cancer care and maternity services. It also doubled the number of employed physicians and increased the number of advanced practice providers – though many replaced seasoned doctors and surgeons who chose to leave during the transition from Indian River Medical Center to Cleveland Clinic.

Transforming the hospital came at a considerable cost. In October Dr. Peter announced that Cleveland Clinic Indian River Hospital had posted significant operating losses for the third consecutive year. In 2022, Vero’s hospital lost $69.2 million, contributing to reported companywide operating losses of $211 million that year.

But those financial setbacks did not hinder Dr. Peter from innovating, establishing new revenue streams while meeting urgent community needs.

“First and foremost, Dr. Peter cares about patients, cares about the caregivers, has a high degree of integrity,” said Linda Walton, chief nursing officer at the hospital. “He is focused on quality and patient safety, and is also very skilled at pulling people together in a collaborative way that I think helped not only the nursing caregivers, but the physicians and providers as well. He’s transparent and does what he says he’s going to do. He also shows great empathy and caring. He is respected universally across the entire organization.”

“I believe that one of my biggest accomplishments was coordinating care for the entire community during [the pandemic],” Dr. Peter said. “The fact that we set up testing and vaccinating for everyone in the community when people were very afraid and did it to scale is impressive.

“We didn’t do it alone. We had a significant collaboration with cooperation between the Indian River Public Health Department, VNA, TCCH, Whole Family Health and others. We were collaborating with up to 43 doctors and nonprofits to serve everyone. I think those relationships we built with the community and with all of our caregivers was an important part of it.”

“The way Dr. Peter handled the COVID challenge was remarkable,” said Watson. “There were so many uncertainties and we had to find immediate ways to care of the community.”

So, what does the future look like for Cleveland Clinic Indian River Hospital without Dr. Peter?

“I think all of healthcare at this moment in time is going through some real challenges around staffing, but that’s true in any industry,” Dr. Peter said. “So even though we’re going through some challenging times financially, and some challenging times from a staffing perspective, I don’t believe it will last forever.

“Once we come out of this and execute all of our sustainability plans, we have a great hospital to build on. We have a very strong community and strong community support. We have Cleveland Clinic culture and its expectations for care, with a continual emphasis on great outcomes, quality, safety, patient experiences and all the things that matter in health care. The future is very bright.”

“He’s going to be a very difficult person to replace, and he will be sorely missed, but because of the depth of the hospital’s team and leadership, the transition will be seamless,” said Dr. Rothman.

While the hospital conducts a nationwide search for a permanent leader, Dr. Rothman will help fill the void.

“He’s going to be the VP and Chief Medical Officer at Indian River Hospital in the interim, while we search for a replacement for Dr. Peter. There are other leaders helping with the transition,” said Raquel G. Rivas, communications specialist for Cleveland Clinic Florida.

“Dr. Peter leaves big shoes to fill.”

Staff writers Lisa Zahner and Milton R. Benjamin contributed to this story.

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