An Even Bigger Golden Parachute for Captain Outrageous

In 2009, I first posted about the amazingly colorful leadership and governance problems at a small hospital system in Massachusetts. 

Background: Northeast Health System

The story of Northeast Health System then included  leaders who solicited money from the community but concealed what they were doing from the same community, an adolescent pregnancy pact after the hospital system refused to provide confidential birth control information at the high school clinic it ran, a hospital vice-president accused of art theft, various cuts, some concealed, of medical services, accusations of conflicts of interest affecting the board of trustees, and no-confidence votes by nurses and physicians. Finally, Stephen Laverty, the CEO held responsible for much of the mess, resigned and things quieted down a bit.  However, he left a system in deficit, leading to further lay-offs, (e.g., see this story in the Boston Globe).  And the vice-president accused of art theft was also "arraigned on bribery and larceny charges" (also per the Boston Globe.)

Nonetheless, in 2010, it was revealed that Mr Laverty left with a golden parachute worth more than $1 million.  But wait, now there is more.

A Guilty Plea
In May, 2012, per the Salem News,
A former associate vice president at Beverly Hospital pleaded guilty yesterday to soliciting bribes and kickbacks from hospital contractors and stealing valuable paintings and other antiques while overseeing a $50 million renovation of the facility.

Paul Galzerano, 60, was sentenced to serve 18 months of a two-year jail term on four larceny counts and two years of probation on two counts of commercial bribery during a hearing yesterday at Salem Superior Court.

Yet More Severance Payments

But wait, there is even more. Yesterday, the Gloucester Times reported about Mr Galzerano's former boss,
Nearly four years after he resigned under fire, former Northeast Health System CEO Stephen Laverty is still collecting big paychecks from his former employer.

Laverty was paid $573,348 in severance in 2011, the second year in a row he has received buyout money from Northeast, the parent nonprofit corporation to Beverly Hospital and Gloucester’s Addison Gilbert Hospital, and a corporation that was essentially merged with Lahey Clinic to become the new Lahey Health System under an agreement that gained the necessary state approvals earlier this year.

Laverty's total severance payments have reached "more than $1.56 million over those two years." Whether the payments have ended is not clear. Attempts to discover why payments continued and became so large revealed only,
Beverly Hospital released a statement Monday saying, 'We cannot comment on Mr. Laverty or the terms of any agreements between the company and past employees.'

For a relatively small hospital system, Northeast Health System has produced an enormous example of the perverse incentives given to top executives of health care organizations. Mr Laverty has been made a millionaire despite what the Gloucester Times called in its news article a "tenure plagued by acrimony and controversy," and leadership previously described in a Gloucester Times editorial as "arrogant, dictatorial," and a history of what only can be described as outrageous management failures. Furthermore, the money he received came not from rich stockholders, but from a struggling community hospital system.

The ability of top executives of many, probably most health care organizations to collect bloated paychecks out of proportion to, if not despite their performance attracts the wrong people to lead these organizations, and provides incentives for even the right people to lead badly. 

Until we make health care leaders accountable, and until their incentives reflect their ability to uphold the health care mission, expect more unaccountable leadership that subverts the health care mission, and hence continually rising costs, declining access, and deteriorating quality.