News & Events

Ousted Caritas chief starts over in Fla.

Application conflicts with Mass. record

By Liz Kowalczyk, Globe Staff

It was front page news four years ago when Dr. Robert Haddad was forced from his job as head of the region’s Catholic health care system, over allegations that he had sexually harassed several female employees. In a five-hour meeting that stretched past 1 a.m., the organization’s board voted to fire Haddad, but left him the choice of resigning.

But that is not what Haddad told the physician licensing agency in Florida, where he has moved to start practicing medicine again.

Haddad, 56, an internist who recently joined a medical group in Fort Myers, applied for a Florida medical license. In his Sept. 24 application letter, Haddad wrote that he “voluntarily resigned’’ as president of Caritas Christi Health Care System in 2006 because of “a controversy directed to my office’’ by several individuals who had “been displaced or asked to leave.’’

“My decision to resign from my administrative role was done knowing I had the unanimous support and formal endorsement of the system board,’’ he wrote.

In an interview in December with the Florida Board of Medicine, Haddad reiterated his assertion that the Caritas Christi board was behind him. They “exonerated me and said there’s nothing here, but be careful,’’ he said, according to a recording provided to the Globe under Florida’s open records law. “A lesson learned. . . . ’

Haddad said, “folks who he had asked to leave made some allegations about hugging and kissing,’’ which he told the board “were frankly, simply warm embraces publicly and what most people did.’’

He said that because of media coverage, he decided to spare his family and resign.

Haddad’s explanation of the how and why he left Caritas Christi does not jibe with official statements at the time from the church and hospital.

In a May 25, 2006, statement, the Archdiocese of Boston, which then owned the hospital system, said that “the Board of Governors of Caritas Christi Health Care System voted to recommend to the Corporate Members of Caritas Christi that Dr. Robert Haddad’s employment be terminated’’ because of an “unfortunate and serious’’ series of events. At the time, the corporation was a five-member panel headed by Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley that chose the board of governors and chief executive.

The statement went on to say the board voted to give Haddad a severance package of 10 months’ salary and benefits if he resigned. “Dr. Haddad has agreed to resign,’’ the statement said.

Haddad did not return e-mails and phone calls seeking an explanation for his comments to the Florida board. In Massachusetts, medical license applications are confidential, but they are public records in Florida.

Caritas officials and the archdiocese would not comment on what Haddad told the Florida board. But Terrence Donilon, spokesman for the Boston Archdiocese, said it stood by the original statement. It “is clear and speaks for itself,’’ Donilon said. Leaders of Caritas’s 2006 board could not be reached.

Helen Drinan, then senior vice president for human resources at Caritas Christi, who brought the allegations to the Caritas board, said at the time that Haddad harassed four subordinate female employees, hugging them, kissing them on the lips, rubbing them on the back, calling them late at night, and asking them about personal matters.

At the time Haddad said he did nothing inappropriate.

In Florida, patients who research Haddad on the state board’s website will find no information on his history in Massachusetts. Like the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine, the Florida board publishes physician profiles, which include training and disciplinary history.

Haddad’s Massachusetts profile lists a hospital disciplinary action taken May 25, 2006, by St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center, a Caritas hospital where he was on the medical staff, for “failure to follow internal bylaws, rules. etc.’’ (The Massachusetts medical board issued a formal warning letter to Haddad and required him to complete a program on appropriate workplace boundaries — actions that are not considered discipline and therefore are not listed on the profile.)

But Haddad’s Florida profile states, “This practitioner has indicated that he has not had any final disciplinary action taken against him within the previous 10 years by a health maintenance organization, pre-paid health clinic, nursing home, hospital or ambulatory surgery center.’’

Chandra Prine, program administrator for the Florida board, said Haddad’s public profile does not include the hospital discipline for several reasons, including that the board doesn’t necessarily consider resignation discipline. And, St. Elizabeth’s never reported the discipline to the National Practitioner Data Bank — a government-run resource for state medical boards and hospitals.

Caritas officials yesterday could not immediately say why the information wasn’t reported.

Besides, Prine said: “These were allegations. I have no record they were ever founded. I have no record that he had a criminal conviction, and the hospital did not charge him. It’s not proven.’’

Haddad’s application file also contained several recommendations from doctors and hospital executives who have known him over the years and vouched for his integrity. Dr. Henry Hood, former president of Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania, where Haddad once worked, wrote that he recommended Haddad as the personal physician for several board members. “His professional and personal qualities are of the highest order.’’

Asked whether she thought patients would want to know about the problems in Massachusetts, Prine said, “we tell Florida patients that he has a license in Massachusetts. If they want to know what happened there, we have given them a link to go to those other states.’’

And asked whether the board was aware of Haddad’s history at Caritas, she said, “He explained the whole story.’’

Liz Kowalczyk can be reached at