St. John’s Hospital celebrates Gerard Walsh


Under the big tent it wasn’t a circus but a retirement celebration for CEO of nine years, Gerard Walsh.

Throughout Walsh’s time at St. John’s Episcopal Hospital in Far Rockaway and Episcopal Health Services that oversees the medical facility, he faced adversity during the Covid-19 Pandemic, a push from New York state to change the facility into a “micro-hospital,” and oversaw an emergency room that underwent years of construction.

Walsh made an impact on the hospital and, according to colleagues and community leaders, will be remembered for his hard work and dedication to making St. John’s a better place to receive care.

Staff of all levels, nurses, doctors, union representatives, and political officials and clergy attended the celebration. The crowded tent was filled with laughter and tears as several people gave speeches and heartfelt congratulations to Walsh. Among the speeches was a video of colleagues and employees that included words of gratitude and appreciation for all he has done.

Walsh expressed a deep amount of gratitude and appreciation for his wife, Karen.

“She has been my support through three health systems, numerous roles, CEO jobs, moving to Maryland, coming back from Maryland, and she’s always been there,” he said.

He said, looking at his wife, “you’re my world” and was met with a chorus of “awes,” from the guests.

“As you prepare to embark on your next journey of life, we the staff and 1199 delegates here at St. John’s Episcopal Hospital wish to extend to you our deepest appreciation and bid you a heartfelt farewell,” said 1199 SEIU representative Iona Folks.

Bishop Lawrence Provenzano, the EHS president and chairman, gave the opening remarks and presented Walsh with the Bishop’s Cross. Provenzano said that the Bishop’s Cross is only given to a handful of people who demonstrate extraordinary service in their community and make a contribution to the Ministry of the Diocese.

To earn such an honor, a person must have made a huge impact and Walsh drilled down on what he thinks his is.

“I think the biggest accomplishment is being able to say that the lives of the people in the Rockaway’s are better, and we brought quality healthcare back to the community, and that’s what saves lives,” Walsh said.

He expressed that he was “grateful for his team,” that is amazing. Walsh said.

When asked how he navigated running a hospital through Covid, Walsh said, “First, we all came in, we didn’t work from home. It was scary because no one has ever dealt with anything like that, and so we took it one day at a time.”

“It never waivered we were always present,” he added, referring to overcoming the adversity everyone faced

In 2021, the state’s Department of Health pressed St. John’s Hospital, to convert the hospital to what they called a “micro-hospital,” dropping to 15 beds from 252.

Walsh said he was confident that he and his team would battle and prevail.

“I knew that it was never going to happen, and that’s not what the community needed and so we rallied the community, the staff, the union, we all came together as one,” he said.

The plan was dismissed and the hospital has been flourishing ever since, Walsh and other officials believe.

“Family is everything to people, and so we’re going to get to do a lot more of that now,” he said.

In retirement, Walsh will be spending time as a “snow bird” down in Florida, enjoying time with family and joining the St. John’s foundation, he said. The hospital will be naming the new Ambulatory Pavilion after Walsh. The ceremonial ribbon cutting is yet to scheduled.

“It is with mixed emotions for me and especially all the members of today’s audience, and those who are unable to make it today, for us to say good luck in the next chapter of your life, I’m looking forward to remaining your friend and to sharing in your future,” said longtime friend Joe Caraccia, EVP of Jzanus.