Timothy Dentry will become the new president and CEO of Northern Light Health in April. He has previously served as the system's chief operating officer. Credit: Courtesy of Northern Light Health

As hospitals across the country enter a period of turbulence because of the novel coronavirus, the Brewer-based health care system that includes Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor has appointed its chief operating officer to serve as the system’s next head.

Beginning April 1, Timothy Dentry is due to replace Michelle Hood as CEO and president of Northern Light Health, the state’s second largest health care system, which includes a total of 10 hospitals stretching from Portland to Presque Isle.

The transition comes as all hospitals are preparing for and dealing with an almost unprecedented public health threat. Maine still has relatively few confirmed cases of the coronavirus, but the total number of them has climbed from 0 to 142 in less than two weeks and could continue an upward trajectory for some time. Now, it remains to be seen how the state’s hospitals would manage a surge in patients like the one New York City is starting to see.

Dentry, who is also a senior vice president at Northern Light, said that continuing in his new leadership role will provide some needed stability as the system prepares for a possible spike in new cases. He joined the organization as its chief operating officer in 2016 and recently served as interim president of EMMC before its current president, Rand O’Leary, was appointed.

After leading Northern Light Health since 2006 — when it was still called Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems — Hood announced late last fall that she would be leaving her position. She is taking a job as executive vice president and chief operating officer of the American Hospital Association, an influential lobbying organization for hospitals.

“Now is the perfect time for steadiness,” Dentry said. Northern Light has confronted some challenges during his time as chief operating officer, including frustration among doctors at EMMC and low quality ratings at the Bangor hospital.

But “we’re in a really solid, stable place,” Dentry said. “I do believe, because I hear it from folks, I think my leadership style is seen as reassuring: ‘Let’s do this together. Let’s figure this out. Let’s figure out how to make sure we’re deliberate, always quality-driven, and do it as a team.’”

Among the largest challenges will be ensuring that Northern Light hospitals continue to have enough resources, such as protective gear and ventilators, if there is an influx of new cases of the coronavirus, Dentry said.

Dentry added that he’ll only be able to be an effective leader “because we’ve got heroes that are doing great work” all the time.

Dentry received a master’s degree in business administration from Loyola University in Maryland and has more than 30 years of health care management experience, according to Northern Light’s website. Before he joined Northern Light Health in 2016, he spent seven years as CEO of Al Rhaba Hospital in the United Arab Emirates, an institution that is affiliated with Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.