By Kyle Alspach
Posted Jun 15, 2009 @ 01:36 AM
Last update Jun 15, 2009 @ 08:07 AM
BROCKTON — The resignation of Norman B. Goodman as head of Signature Healthcare Brockton Hospital isn’t enough to bring badly needed change to the hospital, according to a former board of trustees member.
“To achieve true change in the hospital, I believe the entire board of trustees ought to resign,” said Richard Rosen, who also formerly chaired the hospital’s fundraising arm, the Brockton Hospital Foundation.
“Anybody that knows what has gone on at the hospital understands clearly that each and every trustee was hand-picked by Norman,” said Rosen, who served on the board of trustees from 2005 to 2006. “Those are Norman’s trustees.”
LAST OF TWO PARTS
With roughly 1,800 employees, the hospital is Brockton’s largest private employer and the largest hospital in the Brockton area.
Goodman, who had been president and chief executive officer of the hospital since 1990, resigned on June 6 after the hospital began investigating allegations against him of “inappropriate behavior.” Goodman did not return messages left at his Easton home last week seeking an interview.
Since the resignation, critics have told The Enterprise that Goodman ran the hospital with an iron-fisted management style that caused doctors, administrators and other staff members to flee the hospital.
Meanwhile, a review of financial records shows that from 2000 to 2007, the hospital’s financial reserves plummeted from $70.2 million to $21.9 million, with Goodman using the reserves to balance hospital budgets and pay costs associated with the 2001 nurses’ strike.
Among the duties of a hospital’s board of trustees are the hiring and firing of the hospital’s top executive and oversight of the hospital’s finances.
The Enterprise attempted to reach all 15 of the hospital’s board of trustees last week. Only one could be reached, John Svagzdys, who said he’s served on the board for most of the past four decades.
When asked about Rosen’s call for the board to resign, Svagzdys responded, “I disagree with him 100 percent.”
“He’s entitled to his opinion, he can say what he wants,” Svagzdys said. “But the past is the past. The man (Goodman) is gone. We’re going to replace him … I just want to concentrate on the future.”
Messages left for the other 14 members — left at their workplace or home, or at the hospital — were not returned last week. Board chairman Patricia Roland, co-owner of the local Stoneforge restaurant chain, did not return several messages.
Critics of Goodman say the trustees bear the ultimate responsibility for his actions.
Over the years, numerous doctors would defect to Brockton’s other hospital, Good Samaritan Medical Center — a fact that Dr. Laurence Wohl believes should have troubled the board.
“Where was the board of trustees? Where was the oversight?” said Wohl, who left Brockton Hospital after 25 years to become chief of infectious disease at Good Samaritan. “Why was this never questioned, the number of doctors that went to the other side of town?”
Critics also blame the trustees, and not just Goodman, for the 2001 nurses’ strike that lasted 103 days and became the second-longest nurses’ strike in state history.
“They had the power to say, ‘Enough is enough, end the strike Norman,’” said David Schildmeier, spokesman for the Massachusetts Nurses Association. “If they did, they waited 103 days to do it.”
Fred C. Petti, a former hospital trustee who served as board chair during the strike, said the board fully backed Goodman during the strike.
“We could’ve called off that strike any time we wanted, and we chose not to,” Petti said.
Petti said that what the nurses’ union wanted would have “destroyed the integrity of the hospital,” by allowing the union to file grievances over any staffing decision made by the nurse manager. Schildmeier argued that the nurses’ strike was mainly due to mandatory overtime for nurses.
The hospital’s expenses during the strike included $17.7 million paid to the U.S. Nursing Corp. of Denver, which provided replacement nurses to the hospital during the strike, according to financial records filed with the state attorney general’s office.
The hospital also paid for hotels and transportation for the nurses, and spent more than $1 million for police details.
Rosen believes the current board of trustees won’t make the necessary changes to Goodman’s policies that the hospital needs.
“They enabled him to do what he’s done for all these years,” Rosen said.
Rosen said he only became a member of the board because he was already serving as chairman of the Brockton Hospital Foundation, and the board voted to make that position an automatic part of the board in 2005.
During his time on the board, Rosen said all of the other new trustees were brought forward to the board’s nominating committee by Goodman.
On one occasion, Rosen recalled, another trustee suggested a candidate for the board. But the candidate failed to win approval after Goodman criticized the candidate, Rosen said
Petti disputed the idea that the trustees were “hand-picked” by Goodman, naming several trustees that Goodman hadn’t suggested.
“To say that the nominating process was channeled through Mr. Goodman’s office, that’s almost laughable,” Petti said. “It didn’t work that way.”
Rosen left the board when his term ended at the close of 2006, after writing a two-page letter to his fellow trustees. The letter laid out a litany of charges against Goodman and concluded, “we must see that Norman Goodman is replaced immediately.”
Petti and Svagzdys both said the board never considered removing Goodman over the years.
“Overall, obviously the board was pleased, by virtue of the fact that we continued his employment,” Svagzdys said. “If we were displeased, we would have fired him.”
“In the 10 years that I was on the board, there was never any discussion about not retaining Mr. Goodman,” Petti said. “Health care is a really tough industry, and we had to have someone who could vigorously defend the interests of the hospital. I always thought he did.”
But Rosen was not the only trustee to leave the board on unhappy terms.
Former Brockton school superintendent Manthala George Jr. said he resigned in March 2008 after 25 years on the board.
George said that he resigned because he believes Goodman ordered the hospital’s executive committee to criticize him. George said he was offended after committee members reprimanded him for thanking the president of Good Samaritan Medical Center for a matter unrelated to Brockton Hospital.
“I quite frankly had no intention of compromising my values or my integrity for either the leadership of the hospital or the leadership of the board of trustees, and I resigned,” George said.
His resignation came after a board meeting in March 2008, when the hospital’s executive committee asked George and another trustee to remain in the room, George said. Goodman had left the room, and members of the executive committee, whom George declined to name, proceeded to dole out the criticism, he said.
“I clearly felt that (Goodman) orchestrated this and didn’t have the courage to be present … I lost total respect for (Goodman) and I was extremely disappointed in the leadership of the trustees,” George said.
Among the financial duties of a hospital board is setting the chief executive’s salary — and for Goodman, that meant fairly consistent raises, according to a review of the hospital’s financial filings.
In 2007, the most recent year for which records are available, Goodman received a raise of about $222,000 — bringing his package to nearly $1 million in pay and benefits.
One year when Goodman’s pay decreased was 2001, the year of the nurses’ strike, when Goodman and other hospital executives didn’t get bonuses due to the financial woes, Petti said. Goodman’s pay fell about $60,000 that year, records show.
But between 2002 and 2007, his pay package would jump 77 percent — to $950,780, filings show.
Petti says the board’s compensation committee looked at the pay of CEOs at similar organizations before deciding on Goodman’s pay. The full board of trustees also voted on the pay before it was approved, Petti said.
Staff writer Maria Papadopoulos contributed to this report. Kyle Alspach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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READ MORE of our stories on Goodman’s departure from the hospital.