ARTHUR BRIEN, CEO of Catskill Regional Medical Center, who resigned on Monday.
CEO Art Brien Resigns In
Upheaval at Hospital
By Jeanne Sager
HARRIS September 19, 2006 The man brought in to turn around the financially-strapped Catskill Regional Medical Center in 2000 is gone.
Reached at his home in Glen Spey yesterday afternoon, former hospital CEO Arthur Brien confirmed he resigned that morning.
A source said a special meeting was held yesterday to inform staff of Brien’s departure, and the board will be working “diligently at turning things around.”
“It will take a couple of months but it will be a better, better place,” the source said.
Brien said he would have celebrated 61/2 years with Catskill Regional Medical Center as of today.
“I’m getting long in the tooth, as they say,” he said.
Brien said he will be looking for another position in healthcare the industry where he’s worked for more than 40 years.
“It’s what I know how to do,” he said.
“I wish everyone the best,” he noted. “Not just Catskill, but all the employees and the people of Sullivan County who need the hospital to be the best it can be.
“Best of luck to everyone.”
Also affected by Monday’s change was the job of Theodore Topolewski, a CPA known for coming in to help financially-troubled hospitals.
The rumor mill had it that Topolewski was fired. Brien said he thought Topolewski’s contract happened to expire yesterday.
A spokesman for the New York State Department of Health said the agency expects to release its own findings this week spurred by complaints from the medical staff of Crystal Run Healthcare.
The latter, a for-profit healthcare facility in Rock Hill, pulled its physicians out of Catskill Regional in May citing quality of care issues.
Brien later blamed Crystal Run’s CEO Hal Teitelbaum with putting the hospital in a tight financial spot.
He estimated the reduction in patient admissions would cost CRMC at least $7 million before announcing layoffs. At one point, Brien also threatened Teitelbaum with a libel lawsuit for continued assaults on the hospital in the media.
Brien’s resignation also comes on the heels of other high-ranking officials taking their leave from the hospital.
Chief Financial Officer Nicholas Lanza left earlier in September, followed quickly by Board of Trustees member Dr. Martin Handler, superintendent of the local BOCES.
Handler said his exit was not related to that of Lanza but would not comment further.
As for Lanza, a press release issued by the hospital Monday afternoon said he is expected to return to the non-profit’s employ Wednesday.
The hospital’s press office confirmed the board of trustees is in the process of interviewing firms who specialize in hospital turnaround and anticipates selecting a firm the week of Sept. 25.
Repeated phone calls to board president Richard Baum have not been returned.
Finances Under Microscope
Although Brien refused to comment on the circumstances of his resignation, rumors have been swirling in recent weeks that the hospital is again in dire financial straits.
A spokeswoman for the non-profit’s largest creditor, the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY), said they’re aware the hospital is in a period of upheaval.
But she said rumors that they’ll be moving in to take over are just that.
“We never take over,” Press Officer Claudia Hutton said. “We don’t know how to run a hospital we know how to sell bonds.”
DASNY “provides financing for capital construction and rehabilitation projects for health-care facilities in New York State using a variety of credit structures, depending on the financial status and needs of the customer,” according to a statement on the state agency’s Website.
In this case, the hospital used DASNY’s help to fund its projects with a bond sold in 2004 that’s due to mature in 2023.
The hospital still owes $51.4 million on that bond, said Hutton.
If the hospital cannot come up with that money, Hutton said DASNY puts the focus on protecting the people who purchased these bonds people who often buy them for their retirement or to fund their children’s education, she said.
Although DASNY will not take over a hospital, she said there have been cases where hospitals have filed for bankruptcy and the agency has been involved in a sale of the hospital to pay back the creditors.
A source close to the hospital did not comment on the status of finances or the rumors that there’s only enough money in the coffers to keep the facility running through November.