A longtime hospital leader and one of the most visible healthcare executives in the region, Wayne Brackin has stepped down as chief operating officer of Baptist Health South Florida, CEO Brian Keeley announced in an email on Tuesday.
Brackin and Keeley could not be reached for comment late Tuesday, by which time Brackin’s executive profile and photograph had been scrubbed from Baptist Health’s website, baptisthealth.net. A spokeswoman for Baptist Health confirmed that Brackin had decided to leave the healthcare system and said he was not taking interview requests.
In an email to staff announcing the change, Keeley noted Brackin’s many accomplishments over a 30-year career with Baptist Health but offered no explanation for Brackin’s departure or his next steps.
Brackin, an affable executive with a quick wit, has been a central figure during Baptist Health’s growth into a regional healthcare giant with nine hospitals, dozens of outpatient clinics and other facilities spanning four counties — Monroe, Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach.
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“He’s a wonderful man, and a terrific hospital administrator,” said Linda Quick, a former director for the South Florida Hospital and Healthcare Association, an industry group.
As chief executive of Homestead Hospital when Hurricane Andrew ravaged South Miami-Dade in August 1992, Brackin gained national fame for his expertise in steering healthcare facilities through natural disasters.
“He’s considered a national leader in preparedness and response and recovery,” Quick said.
Brackin demonstrated his expertise with storms in September, when Hurricane Irma made landfall in the Florida Keys, where Baptist Health operates two facilities: Mariners Hospital in Tavernier, and Fishermen’s Community Hospital in Marathon.
As the storm approached, Mariners was forced to evacuate patients as the small community hospital’s first floor was flooded. Fishermen’s was shuttered and remains closed, though Baptist has opened a field hospital on the grounds to serve patients in the Middle Keys.
In December, Brackin chronicled his experience driving into the storm’s path to pick up a nurse who had been reluctant to evacuate. After the storm passed, Brackin wrote in Modern Healthcare magazine that he toured the area via helicopter.
“You could see destruction from the air starting from Key Largo, and the farther south we traveled the worse it looked,” he wrote. “By the time we got to Islamorada, it started to be Andrew-level devastation.”
Brackin joined Baptist Health in 1995, when South Miami and Homestead hospitals merged with the healthcare system. Brackin was appointed CEO of South Miami Hospital and remained until June 2007, when he was promoted to chief operating officer of the healthcare system.
In his email to staff, Keeley wrote that Brackin had been instrumental in the opening of the Miami Cancer Institute, a 445,000-square-foot facility that combines a cancer research lab and treatment facilities, including the region’s only proton beam therapy, which can blast highly charged proton particles at tumors without damaging the surrounding healthy tissue.