By Miriam Raftery
November 11, 2019 (San Diego) – Kaiser Permanente Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Bernard J. Tyson passed away unexpectedly yesterday morning in his sleep, the healthcare organization announced. Today, 170 National Union of Healthcare Workers voted unanimously to postpone a planned 5-day statewide strike of mental health employees due to Tyson’s passing.
Approximately 4,000 Kaiser psychologists, therapists and other medical professionals had been scheduled to strike from Monday, Nov. 11 to Friday, Nov. 15. The strike would have shut down mental health services at more than 100 Kaiser clinics and medical facilities from San Diego to Sacramento.
Effective immediately, Kaiser’s board of directors has named Gregory A. Adams, Executive Vice President and Group President, as interim Chairman and CEO.
“Bernard was an exceptional colleague, a passionate leader, and an honorable man. We will greatly miss him,” said board member Edward Pei, Chair of the Executive Committee and the Governance, Accountability and Nominating Committee. “The board has full confidence in Greg Adams’ ability to lead Kaiser Permanente through this unexpected transition.”
A statement from Kaiser extends sympathies to Tyson’s family, adding, “An outstanding leader, visionary and champion for high-quality, affordable health care for all Americans, Bernard was a tireless advocate for Kaiser Permanente, our members and the communities we serve. Most importantly, Bernard was a devoted husband, father and friend. We all will miss his tremendous presence in our lives.”
Sal Rosselli, President of the National Union of Healthcare Workers, says a new date for the strike has not been set. “We offer our condolences to Bernard’s family, friends and colleagues. Our members dedicate their lives to helping people through tragedy and trauma, and they understood that a strike would not be appropriate during this period of mourning and reflection,” Roselli said in a prepared statement. “We agree that this week should be for remembering Bernard Tyson and honoring his legacy. But we remain ready to quickly resume negotiations with Kaiser to achieve the same access to mental health care that Kaiser provides for all its other services and boost the recruitment and retention of clinicians by providing them with the same retirement and health benefits that Kaiser has agreed to give 140,000 other employees in contracts settled over the past year.”
Tyson, 60, has been CEO of Kaiser Foundation Health Plan Inc. and Hospitals, known as Kaiser Permanente, since 2013 and became chairman of the board of directors in 2014. His career at Kaiser spanned over 30 years, where his roles ranged form hospital administrator to chief operating officer.
Under his leadership, Kaiser grew from 9.1 million to 12.3 million members, with revenues rising from $53 billion to over $82.8 billion. The workforce has risen from 174,000 to 218,000 employees, with the number of physicians up from 17,000 in 2013 to 23,000 today.
Tyson’s influence was felt both nationally and internationally. TIME included him on its list of the most influential people in the world and named him one of the Health Care 50. Also, in addition to being named by Modern Healthcare as one of the most influential people in health care for 5 consecutive years, he was No. 2 on the 100 Most Influential People in Healthcare list and on Fast Company’s list of most creative people.
Tyson served on the boards of directors for the American Heart Association and was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He served as Deputy Chairman of the Americas of the International Federation of Health Plans, was former chair of American Health Insurance Plans and a steward of the World Economic Forum’s Global Challenge on the Future of Health and Healthcare.
A San Francisco Bay Area native, Tyson earned a Master of Business Administration in Health Service Administration and a bachelor’s degree in Health Service Management from Golden Gate University in San Francisco. He earned a leadership certificate from Harvard University.