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Michael Wagner. Photo courtesy of Tufts Medical Center.
Michael Wagner. Photo courtesy of Tufts Medical Center.

The Tufts Medical Center Board of Trustees said Thursday that it has voted unanimously to appoint Michael Wagner as president and chief executive of Tufts Medical Center and Floating Hospital for Children on a permanent basis.

Wagner, a medical doctor, has served as interim chief executive since September, when his predecessor, Eric Beyer, abruptly resigned to “pursue other opportunities.”

As permanent chief executive, Wagner faces challenges ahead.

By some measures, Tufts Medical Center, which is located in Boston’s Chinatown neighborhood, has not been as successful as Steward Health Care System, Partners HealthCare System, or Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center at adding community hospitals to its franchise.

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One Tufts Medical Center advantage: It has one of the largest community physician networks, the New England Quality Care Alliance, with 1,800 doctors in Massachusetts.

While all hospitals need a certain degree of scale, Wagner said, big isn’t always better.

“The buzz around consolidation” tends to obscure the fact that only about half of proposed consolidations actually come to fruition, Wagner said.

As an example, Wagner cited Partners Health Care System’s proposal to take over South Shore Hospital. That plan was initially proposed in 2012, but the takeover has yet to be completed.

Meanwhile, in February, merger talks collapsed between Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and two other major health care organizations, Lahey Health and the Atrius Health consortium of doctors groups.

“The focus on big downtown monolithic hospitals is not going to play well in the future,” said Wagner, adding that care doesn’t have to happen downtown.

“Our focus,” he added, “is on building strong programs” that take advantage of Tufts Medical Center’s network of community hospital partners. Tufts Medical Center is affiliated with Lawrence General Hospital, Lowell General Hospital, MetroWest Medical Center, and Signature Healthcare Brockton Hospital.

“We’re about keeping people local when they can stay local,” said Wagner, who added, “I’m the only CEO of a big downtown hospital who’s worked as a physician in local community hospitals.”

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According to Wagner, Tufts Medical Center has “an incredibly strong financial foundation” with $300 million in unrestricted cash including $100 million in strategic reserves.


Chris Reidy can be reached at reidy@globe.com.