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Elizabeth Cooney is a health reporter for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
Boston Globe Health and Science staff:
Scott Allen
Alice Dembner
Carey Goldberg
Liz Kowalczyk
Stephen Smith
Colin Nickerson
Beth Daley
Karen Weintraub, Deputy Health and Science Editor, and Gideon Gil, Health and Science Editor.
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Friday, November 2, 2007

Attorney General announces review of Caritas

By Chris Reidy, Globe Staff

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today that she will work with a consultant to conduct a review of the Caritas Christi Health Care System.

Caritas Christi is owned by the Archdiocese of Boston, which has been exploring a possible sale of the six-hospital system, the second largest in New England.

In the past year, the archdiocese attempted to transfer ownership of the Caritas Christi system and its $275 million in debt to two successful Catholic healthcare chains, but was unable to reach a deal with either system, the Globe has reported.

"With the recent termination of affiliation discussions with other systems, we believe it is now an appropriate time to conduct a more focused review of Caritas on a stand-alone basis," Coakley said in a statement today.

Coakley's office said it will partner with Health Strategies and Solutions, a healthcare consulting firm that has provided consulting services to the attorney general's office for the last three years, in conducting the review.

The attorney general's office is responsible for overseeing the public's interest in the viability of the commonwealth's nonprofit charitable hospitals.

Coakley's press release included a statement from John Chessare, president and chief executive of Caritas Christi.

"We work with the attorney general's office on a regular basis, and we look forward to continuing to work with them while providing exceptional healthcare," he said.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Six Mass. hospitals recognized for performance improvement

Six Massachusetts hospitals have made a consulting company's list of 100 US hospitals that have improved their performance.

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Caritas St. Elizabeth's Medical Center in Boston; UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester; NSMC Union Hospital in Lynn and Lowell General Hospital were recognized by Thomson Healthcare for better clinical outcomes, safety, financial stability and growth from 2001 to 2005.

The unranked 2006 list appeared in last week's Modern Healthcare magazine.

Posted by Elizabeth Cooney at 08:44 AM

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Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Former Caritas chief gets warning letter over harassment complaints

By Liz Kowalczyk, Globe Staff

Dr. Robert Haddad, the former Catholic hospital chief who was forced out amid complaints of sexual harassment, was warned about his behavior by the state licensing board today and told to get training about "maintaining appropriate interpersonal boundaries in the workplace."

The state Board of Registration in Medicine, which licenses Massachusetts doctors, issued a formal Letter of Warning to Haddad, but stopped short of disciplinary action. A warning letter is not part of a doctor's personal profile, which is posted on the board's public website, and is not reported to a national database that tracks discipline against physicians.

Haddad was forced to resign in May 2006 as head of Caritas Christi Health Care System, the hospital network owned by the Archdiocese of Boston, after four female employees complained that he sexually harassed them, including hugging them and kissing some on the mouth.

In its letter to Haddad, the board said, "We warn you not to conduct yourself in any way that would reflect poorly on the medical profession. ... We further warn you that you need to be aware of how your actions may be interpreted by the individuals that work for you and with you."

According to the letter, Haddad and his attorney, Ellen Janos of Boston, argued to board members that they could not discipline Haddad because his conduct occurred in his role as an administrator, not a doctor.

But the board, though it chose not to discipline Haddad, said it has the legal authority to do so. "Any conduct that you engage in that undermines the public's confidence in the medical profession could result in disciplinary action against your license," the board wrote.

Haddad, according to the letter, agreed to complete a training program.

A statement from Gina Addis, a spokeswoman for Janos's law firm, Mintz Levin, said that Haddad "has always taken seriously his responsibility of conducting himself in a professional and dignified manner, most especially during the difficult and challenging times in the successful turnaround of Caritas Christi."

Addis previously said that Haddad is not currently treating patients, and is "considering various options."

When asked why the board didn't discipline Haddad, spokesman Russell Aims said "the board had the advantage of hearing both sides of the story, and concluded based on the facts in front of it that this is the appropriate action."

The board has two female and five male members.

Mitchell Garabedian, attorney for a former Caritas employee who has filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Haddad, said his client is unhappy that the board didn't discipline him.

"My client is disappointed that Dr. Haddad was given only a gentle slap on the wrist," Garabedian said. "My client doubts this gentle slap on the wrist will help Dr. Haddad understand that the head of a powerful institution should and can not objectify women."

The woman, Judith Ann LaBelle, was director of security and communications at Caritas Holy Family Hospital in Methuen until March 2006. She filed a complaint last year with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination that Haddad sexually harassed her. She also alleged age discrimination. Garabedian recently removed the complaint from the commission and filed a civil lawsuit in Suffolk County Superior Court. He said a mediation session is scheduled for today.

Haddad's departure from Caritas last year ended an embarrassing episode for Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley and the archdiocese. Beginning in February 2006, four women filed complaints about Haddad with the Caritas Christi human resources department. Senior vice president Helen Drinan investigated and recommended that Haddad be dismissed.

Initially, O'Malley decided to reprimand, rather than fire, Haddad. But after a Globe story about the decision led to more than 10 new accusations and a public outcry, the cardinal and the hospital's board of governor's forced Haddad to resign. None of these other women has been publicly identified.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Former St. E's cardiologist experimented on himself

While chief of cardiovascular research at Caritas St. Elizabeth's Medical Center, a doctor now at Northwestern tested a stem-cell extraction technique on himself before going ahead with an experiment to transplant patients' stem cells into their hearts, the Chicago Sun Times reports today.

losordo150.bmpDr. Douglas Losordo (left, in 2002 Globe photo) moved to Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine in December 2006. The pilot study began in 2003 while he was a professor of medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine and a cardiologist at St. Elizabeth's.

Losordo did not go on to have stem cells injected via catheter into his heart. Before the small trial to test safety began, he took a drug for five days that boosted production of stem cells in his bloodstream and then had them removed and purified in a process similar to dialysis, the story says.

"I wanted to see what it would be like for patients before I subjected them to the procedure," he told the Sun Times.

The study subjects all had severe angina, or chest pain, that could not be treated by surgery, stents or angioplasty. The group of patients who received stem cells injected into heart muscle that was not receiving blood flow reported fewer angina attacks over six months than the group of patients who underwent catheterization, but did not receive stem cells, the story said.

The results appear in the June 26 issue of Circulation.

Posted by Elizabeth Cooney at 11:51 AM

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Monday, July 9, 2007

On the blogs: Beth Israel CEO has some advice for Caritas Christi

On Running a Hospital, Paul Levy compares the troubles of the Caritas Christi Health Care system to the ones he faced when he took over at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. It was January 2002 and Attorney General Tom Reilly was pushing to sell the hospital to a for-profit company. Levy says reorganizing the Beth Israel Deaconess board in relation to its parent Caregroup was key to its survival.

"The marvelous hospitals of the Caritas Christi system and the caring and thoughtful staff in those hospitals need to be governed by the communities they serve," Levy writes. "Local board members who are held accountable for their actions will have the business sense and the dedication to make the decisions needed to ensure that the faith-based mission of their institutions is successful."

Posted by Elizabeth Cooney at 10:20 AM

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Children's doctors to care for babies at Caritas hospitals

By Liz Kowalczyk, Globe Staff

Children's Hospital Boston and Caritas Christi Health Care today announced an affiliation agreement in which Children's Hospital doctors will provide care at three Caritas nurseries for sick babies.

Children's physicians will staff the neonatal intensive care unit at Caritas St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Boston and the special care nurseries at Caritas Good Samaritan Medical Center in Brockton and Caritas Holy Family Hospital and Medical Center in Methuen.

The agreement provides a guarantee to Caritas that it won't encounter a shortage of specialists to staff its nurseries and the opportunity to associate itself with the prestigious Harvard teaching hospital.

Children's, which will care for the sickest children at its own neonatal intensive care unit, extends its reach to a new group of potential patients.

Posted by Karen Weintraub at 12:43 PM

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Project seeks to limit ties between doctors, drug companies

A new campaign called The Prescription Project seeks to end conflicts of interest that may arise from pharmaceutical company marketing aimed at physicians. It calls for academic medical centers to tighten their policies governing ties with industry.

"We are looking to see that payers, consumers and physicians work together to promote evidence-based medicine and to counter the bias of drug marketing," said Robert Restuccia, the project's Boston-based executive director.

The Prescription Project points to Stanford University Medical School, University of Pennsylvania Health System and Yale University School of Medicine as leaders. While their models vary, the institutions restrict gifts to doctors, drug samples and visits by industry sales representatives.

Boston hospitals surveyed by the Globe during the past week say they require drug company employees and other vendors to register with them before visiting, but other policies vary.

Tufts-New England Medical Center does not allow pharmaceutical sales representatives in clinical areas. Caritas St. Elizabeth's Medical Center says its doctors cannot give patients free samples of medications, but Partners' hospitals, Brigham and Women's and Massachusetts General, do let doctors give free samples to patients at certain approved sites, such as a practice serving a significant number of uninsured patients unable to pay on their own.

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and St. Elizabeth's prohibit on-site meals paid for by drug companies and restrict gifts to under $100. Partners' hospitals have a similar cap on what doctors can accept. Gifts may include nominal-value items related to education or patient care, the Partners' rules say.

A speaker or panelist at a professional meeting may accept payment for expenses if the meeting's purpose is "promoting objective scientific and educational activities," the Beth Israel Deaconess policy states.

"We take this issue very seriously and continue to update our policies," said St. Elizabeth's spokeswomen Melanie Franco. "We will look at what the Prescription Project is saying."

The Prescription Project, funded by $6 million from the Pew Charitable Trusts, is a joint effort of Community Catalyst in Boston and the Institute on Medicine as a Profession at Columbia University. Its impetus was a January 2006 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association that said the $12 billion spent annually on drug marketing influences how doctors prescribe medications, whether they receive free lunches, free samples or free trips from companies.

Posted by Elizabeth Cooney at 01:28 PM

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Monday, February 12, 2007

St. E's neurologist wins MS Society award

Dr. Ellen Lathi of Caritas St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center has won the 2006 Health Care Professional Volunteer Award from the Central New England Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

A neurologist, she was honored for helping patients gain access to medications. She is a member of the MS group's Clinical Advisory Committee.

Posted by Elizabeth Cooney at 01:15 PM

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Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Today's Globe: Caritas deal, pioneer chemist

Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley and a tight circle of archdiocese leaders have made a tentative deal to transfer ownership of the six hospitals in the Caritas Christi Health Care system, including Caritas St. Elizabeth's Medical Center in Brighton, to the nation's largest Catholic hospital chain, St. Louis-based Ascension Health.

"Forgotten Genius" on NOVA tonight tells the story of Percy Julian, the black chemist whose work in the face of segregation led directly to the steroids that treat rheumatoid arthritis and indirectly to the birth control pill.

Posted by Elizabeth Cooney at 06:28 AM

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Thursday, February 1, 2007

Today's Globe: case against Haddad, oils and breast growth in boys

A woman who worked for the state's largest Catholic hospital chain for 20 years filed a sexual harassment complaint against former Caritas chief executive Dr. Robert Haddad. In it she spells out what she said occurred over 15 months and ended when she was laid off, allegedly in retaliation for complaining to hospital executives.

Lavender and tea tree oils found in some shampoos, soaps, and lotions can temporarily leave boys with enlarged breasts in rare cases, apparently by disrupting their hormonal balance, a preliminary study suggests.

Posted by Elizabeth Cooney at 06:26 AM

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

After loss of heart docs, Brigham recruits replacements

Brigham and Women's Hospital is trying to replenish its cardiology staff, after outside recruiters raided the department last year. The Brigham, which particularly needs a strong cardiology department as it prepares to open a $350 million cardiovascular wing next year, lost six, or 10 percent, of its 50 cardiologists last year.

They were lured away by private medical companies and by Case Western Reserve University Medical School and its affiliated University Hospitals of Cleveland, which are trying to compete with the Cleveland Clinic -- world renowned for its heart care and research.

In response, Brigham executives have gone on their own head-hunting spree, hiring three cardiologists who will start their new jobs in the next few months.

The Brigham hired two doctors from Caritas St. Elizabeth's Medical Center -- Dr. Frederick Welt, director of St. Elizabeth's cardiac catheterization lab, and Dr. Pinak Shah -- and Dr. Judy Mangion from Hartford Hospital in Connecticut.

Caritas fired back, hiring away Dr. Jeffrey Popma, director of interventional cardiology at the Brigham.

Brigham executives say they don't need to replace all the doctors who left, because the new physicians will spend more of their time seeing patients, and a little less on research, and because of a slight slowdown in cardiac catheterization cases.

Case Western last year recruited Dr. Daniel Simon as its new chief of cardiology. Dr. Mukesh Jain and Dr. James Fang also signed on for high-level positions, and three Brigham cardiology fellows headed west as well.

At Case Western, the Harvard doctors have made a big splash. Overnight patients in the hospitals' cardiac services have jumped 25 percent, Simon said. The Brigham doctors also brought a significant amount of research funding with them -- about $4.5 million -- most of which they brought from the Brigham.

Simon said he left the Brigham not because of dissatisfaction with his employer, but because of the tremendous opportunity offered by Case Western's new medical school dean and the hospital system's new chief executive, who promised $20 million to hire doctors and researchers for a new cardiovascular institute.

-- Liz Kowalczyk

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