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April 10, 2013 / Paul Levy

White knight for Carney Hospital

Friday, November 2, 2007, 6:33am

I have an idea, and I am going to offer it with all seriousness and with no sarcasm or animosity. In today’s Boston Globe, Jeff Krasner writes about the sad status of Caritas Carney Hospital. Of all the hospitals in the Caritas Christi system, Carney seems to be in the most trouble, and it has been for years, notwithstanding millions of dollars of state aid, $4 million this year alone. Nonetheless, the hospital enjoys great local affection and ongoing support from the Mayor and many state legislators.

If today’s story is correct, the hospital and the community and elected officials are now courting a suitor to take it over and have it separate from the Caritas Christi system. In the past, nationwide suitors for Caritas Christi actually cited Carney as one of the factors for not taking over the entire system, so it is difficult to imagine any of the hospitals in Boston as being interested. The potential financial liabilities are just too great for most of us, who have narrow operating margins to start with and are facing our own financial challenges over the coming years. And for the Partners Healthcare System, which might have the financial resources, there are already too many concerns about market power in the Boston metropolitan area.

Here’s the proposal. There is one organization in town with a strong interest in hospital management and with the financial resources to take this on — the Service Employees International Union. SEIU has millions of dollars at its disposal (reportedly over $20 million) to organize workers in Massachusetts, a local staff of some 200 people, and a desire to prove that it can improve the working conditions and quality and safety in area hospitals. I am guessing it also has a pension fund for its members, with many millions available for investment.

So why not approach SEIU with a proposal to have the union purchase, own and operate Carney Hospital? Let the union show how it can handle the full panoply of issues of running a hospital and demonstrate how it can profitably operate a neighborhood facility without the kind of state aid that has been pouring into Carney for all these years. Let the union negotiate contracts with the insurance companies, encourage access for low-income patients, maintain high regulatory standards for patient care, and do all the other things required of hospital management, while, of course, providing excellent working conditions for staff members and physicians.

What better way for the SEIU to demonstrate its potential value to the community than to take on this worthy assignment and to do a good job at it? You can read many statements by the SEIU that seem consistent with the mission of the Carney. As I say, although I may be accused of doing otherwise, I am offering this suggestion with no sarcasm or animosity. In terms of financial resources, industry experience, and stated values and mission, there is an obvious white knight in this situation, and it is 1199SEIU.

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