NEW BEDFORD — Southcoast Health has named Dr. Rayford Kruger as the hospital’s president and chief executive officer “for the foreseeable future,” the board of trustees announced in a correspondence to employees this morning.

Kruger had been serving as acting president and CEO for the past several months, after Keith A. Hovan stepped down from his role amid domestic assault and possible ammunition charges. The trustees later announced their intentions to sever ties with the longtime administrator.

“We are pleased to announce today that we have removed the word “acting” from Dr. Kruger’s title,” the board said in its internal memo. “Ray will lead Southcoast for the foreseeable future as President and CEO.”

Trustees had been under fire in recent weeks after declining to answer questions about Hovan’s status and the board’s search for a replacement, and they acknowledged the upheaval caused by sudden events.

“Unplanned leadership changes can present enormous challenges to large organizations as well as their Boards,” trustees wrote. “Southcoast’s Board has been carefully considering its next steps because leadership transitions are planned over the course of years, not weeks or months.”

The trustees’ memo noted Kruger’s steady leadership and thanked employees for their continued service. “We again want to recognize and applaud the extraordinary contributions of all of you — nearly 7,500 employees — whose dedication to providing the best care in the communities we serve has been evident not just over these past few months, but over the past two years,” trustees wrote in their message.

“We also want to recognize the steady hand of Dr. Ray Kruger. Ray’s willingness to step in to lead the Southcoast system, the organization he has served faithfully for more than 30 years, has allowed us to move forward with confidence that he will continue to steer us through the challenges ahead.”

A copy of the memo, which was signed “Southcoast Health System Board of Trustees,” was sent to The New Bedford Light this morning.

The trustees added: “We look forward to continuing to work with Dr. Kruger in planning for the future success of Southcoast. Because of the contributions of all of you, we are confident that we can proceed forward with this thorough, meaningful, and well thought out approach.”

Prior to being named as Southcoast Health’s acting president and CEO in 2021, Kruger served as the chief physician executive and physician in chief of surgical services, according to his profile information on the Southcoast Health website. He was also the medical director of the Southcoast Health Weight Loss Center from 2004  to 2021, and he practiced general surgery at Tobey Hospital for more than 32 years.

Kruger is board certified in general surgery and is a fellow of the American College of Surgeons. He specializes in general, bariatric, and minimally invasive surgery, including anti-reflux surgery and other procedures.

A graduate of Dartmouth College and Dartmouth Medical School in New Hampshire, Kruger completed his internship at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. He completed his residency training at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Hanover, N.H.

Editor’s note: This story was updated on March 7, 2022, to include additional biographical information.

Andy Tomolonis is managing editor of The New Bedford Light. Email Andy at atomolonis@newbedfordlight.org.