By Jeanne Sager
ROCK HILL September 22, 2006 Even as CEO Art Brien’s departure from Catskill Regional Medical Center shook the Sullivan County medical community Monday, one doctor was awash in a feeling of calm.
Dr. Hal Teitelbaum, who has pointed the finger at Brien’s administration since pulling his Crystal Run Healthcare providers out of CRMC in early June, said the CEO’s resignation was a sort of vindication.
Crystal Run’s doctors bowed out of CRMC as the New York State Department of Health (DOH) plunged into an investigation the healthcare company suggested.
But Teitelbaum said he never wanted to bring in DOH he wanted the hospital to fix what he termed “quality of care issues.”
Instead, Teitelbaum said he was ignored.
And it was Art Brien who turned a deaf ear to his pleas.
“[The hospital board members] see the world through a filter, and that filter is the eyes of the CEO,” Teitelbaum said in an extensive interview with the Democrat in the wake of Brien’s resignation.
In this case, Brien as CEO “distorted” requests and concerns that he was asked to relay to the board, Teitelbaum said.
With Brien gone, Teitelbaum is confident Crystal Run Healthcare and Catskill Regional Medical Center can forge a new agreement, bringing Crystal Run’s doctors back into Harris and with it thousands of patient admissions to the hospital.
For that to happen, Teitelbaum said the new administration and/or the board of trustees will have to acknowledge the existence of those quality of care issues he presented to DOH.
“People ask me, ‘Why does anyone need to acknowledge anything?’” he said. “It’s like the emperor’s new clothes everyone knew there was an issue here, but everyone was afraid to talk about it.
“Crystal Run Healthcare has put its reputation on the line.”
To move forward, Teitelbaum said, you need to look back.
With that in mind, he said acknowledgement of past mistakes will strengthen the credibility of Catskill Regional Medical Center.
Teitelbaum is also calling for a team of consultants to monitor the hospital a check and balance that would watch for quality of care issues as well as any improprieties on the financial end.
The two are directly linked, he said, and the hospital’s current state of financial disarray may well have contributed to a lack of quality in care.
“When you have a good old boys network, quality will suffer,” Teitelbaum said. “And there need to be clinical changes made to improve quality of care.”
Teitelbaum’s final request is a more transparent board of trustees a board that would welcome people to sit in on its meetings.
It’s a courtesy that he’d like to see extended not just to himself but to members of the Catskill Regional Medical Board, he said.
“I’m not asking for a seat on the board,” he said. “I’m not asking for anything more than anyone else.”
Teitelbaum hastened to explain he wants no part in running Catskill Regional.
“Neither I nor anyone here is looking for a job at Catskill Regional Medical Center,” Teitelbaum said. “We’re not looking to take it over; I don’t want to be head of the medical staff.”
But Teitelbaum said he wants to work with CRMC again, with a hospital that’s free of conflicts of interest and committed to improving the quality of healthcare.
So far, no offers have been made although he said he’s spoken one-on-one with certain members of the CRMC board of trustees.
“We really don’t know how we’re going to be involved,” he said. “Hopefully the hospital and we can move together to rectify the problems at Catskill Regional.
“We will be happy if what emerges from this is a much stronger Catskill Regional Medical Center.”
By Jeanne Sager
HARRIS September 22, 2006 “Everything’s on the table.”
That’s the word from Larry Cafasso, acting CEO of Catskill Regional Medical Center.
The chief operating officer of the hospital has been filling in since CEO Art Brien walked off the job Monday.
His own future in the position is uncertain the board of trustees has already interviewed at least three turnaround teams and Cafasso doesn’t know how the firm hired will handle the takeover.
“There’s one type where they really get involved from a management perspective,” Cafasso said.
Such a firm would break down what each individual at the hospital does and how their duties can best be carried out.
A second option is a firm that looks at a more strategic management plan, Cafasso said.
They bring in people who’ve worked as hospital executive, financial and operating officers.
The real goal, Cafasso said, is to take the hospital in a new strategic direction.
“The bottom line is, the hospital has to be what I call ‘re-missioned,’” he said. “It has to be re-missioned into what the 76,000 people in this community need it to be rather than what we’d like it to be.”
Brien’s resignation came at the end of what Cafasso called a tough summer.
Finances were tight, and the patient census took a steep drop after Crystal Run Healthcare pulled its physicians (and thus its patient admissions) in June.
Crystal Run has charged the hospital with quality of care issues as well as discrimination toward its providers claims that are still under investigation by the state’s Department of Health.
Dr. Hal Teitelbaum, CEO of Crystal Run, said the improper practices complaint, which dealt with the discrimination claims, is not expected to go to a hearing until the new administration is in place.
If an agreement can be reached amicably to bring the two healthcare institutions back together before that time, Teitelbaum said he could see that complaint being dropped.
A review of the quality of care complaints is expected to be released as soon as next week, according to a Department of Health spokesman although the same claim was made to the Democrat a week ago.
Cafasso linked the decrease in patient admissions to Crystal Run’s announcement last spring.
But he said there have been other factors including the death of Dr. J. Arthur Reisenberg and the departure of several physicians with admitting privileges to the hospital, including Dr. Joy Mendelsohn of White Lake, who had her license suspended earlier in the summer.
Cafasso said rumors that the hospital doesn’t have the money to remain open past November have not proven true.
Chief Financial Officer Nick Lanza, who was forced out just weeks before Brien’s resignation, is back, and those rumors did not start in his office, Cafasso said.
The hospital’s largest creditor, the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York, is in constant contact with the hospital and Cafasso said they’re satisfied with what CRMC is doing.
In a bit of positive news, Cafasso said the patient census has already begun to rise.
And there are no staff layoffs on the table at this time.
“That’s the last thing we want to do,” he said.
Looking at the various departments, Cafasso said he thinks the hospital is running pretty efficiently.
But, he warned, the team brought in by the board will have its own thoughts on the matter and will likely make some changes.
One major change promised by the new administrator is open communication.
The medical staff has been invited into the board’s interview process, and Cafasso said they will be involved in the remissioning of the hospital.
The staff, the campuses and the clinics of Catskill Regional Medical Center can expect changes.
“They’re all subject to review,” Cafasso said.