2009 News

Goodman’s resignation draws mixed reaction

06.10.2009

BROCKTON — A former associate of Norman B. Goodman says he's glad for his resignation as head of Signature Healthcare Brockton Hospital.

“It’s long overdue, and the hospital will be a much better place without him,” said Richard Rosen, a former hospital trustee and former chairman of the hospital’s fundraising arm, the Brockton Hospital Foundation.

Goodman, who had been president and chief executive officer of the hospital since 1990, resigned on Saturday after the hospital began investigating allegations of “inappropriate behavior” against him. Hospital officials haven’t released any further details about the allegations.

A former nurse, who declined to be identified, said she disliked working for Goodman because of his management style, and said she welcomed his resignation.

Others said that from a business standpoint, the hospital — Brockton’s largest private employer, with roughly 1,800 employees — thrived under Goodman’s tenure.

“There’s no disputing that this hospital has fared better than many over the last two decades under his leadership,” said Chris Cooney, president and CEO of the Brockton-based Metro South Chamber of Commerce.

Goodman didn’t return messages left by phone and in person at his Easton home last week.

‘Iron fist’

In an interview shortly before taking the reins of the hospital in 1990, Goodman said his main role would be to “work with the board of trustees, medical staff and employees and create a vision for Brockton Hospital.”

Critics of Goodman are the first to acknowledge that he created a vision — but say it had little to do with input from others.

Rosen, who said his family has had longstanding ties with the hospital and had felt it an “honor” to serve on the foundation and board of trustees, said he parted ways with the hospital because of Goodman.

“The way he ran the hospital was with an iron fist,” said Rosen, a Whitman resident, former town selectman and president of Rosen Realty in Whitman.

“It didn’t matter whether Norman was right or wrong, it was always going to be Norman’s way of doing things,” Rosen said.

The result, Rosen said, was low morale, high turnover among senior managers and numerous feuds with doctor groups and the hospital nurses’ union.

For example, from 2000 to 2007, the hospital had five different vice presidents of human resources, according to tax records filed by the hospital. “That’s remarkably high,” said Alan Sager, professor of health policy and management at the Boston University School of Public Health. The hospital also had three different vice presidents of managed care during that period.

One case of fallout between Goodman and a doctors’ group involved Brockton Cardiology Associates, once the main provider of cardiac care for Brockton Hospital. The group cut most of its ties with the hospital after a dispute with Goodman over the split with Boston Medical Center, a longtime hospital partner, in 2005.

The group’s president, Dr. Barry Arkin, who clashed with Goodman over the split, would go on to become chief of cardiology at rival hospital Good Samaritan Medical Center in Brockton. Arkin and other doctors at Brockton Cardiology didn’t return messages seeking comment last week. A secretary said the group’s doctors still have privileges to see patients at Brockton Hospital.

The hospital nurses’ union, part of the Massachusetts Nurses Association, had feuded with Goodman for many years, most visibly in 2001 when a nurses’ strike lasted 103 days and union members picketed in front of Goodman’s home.

Frequent accusations included understaffing and unsafe conditions for nurses. Representatives of the union have declined to comment on Goodman or his resignation.

Goodman had answered such criticisms in the past. During a 2004 interview, he said the unhappy employees at the hospital were a “small minority,” and that he always tried to do what was needed to keep the hospital strong.

“In this business, if you can’t change, you lose,” Goodman said at the time. “In health care, there is always a lot of turmoil.”

Kyle Alspach can be reached at kalspach@enterprisenews.com.

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