AG Coakley to review finances of Caritas group

Now that three different Catholic hospital chains have declined to take over Caritas Christi Health Care from the Archdiocese of Boston, Attorney General Martha Coakley has deemed it a good time to perform a review of the chain's ability to "stand alone."

"It is our hope and expectation that this review will help develop a road map with which our office, the Archdiocese, Caritas management, the health care community and the communities that Caritas serves may ensure that the health care mission is preserved and strengthened," said Coakley in a statement.

The review, which is being done by Philadelphia-based health care consulting firm Health Strategies and Solutions, would become a "road-map" for how to preserve the financially strapped facility, said the statement. It would be paid for by three insurance plans, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare and Tufts Health Plan.

Earlier in the week, a group of Dorchester's elected officials were quoted in the Globe asking Caritas Christi to sell off the Carney, but many of them later said the story overstated their case.

"We really didn't. We could have I guess, but we didn't," said state Rep. Martin Walsh when asked if the group demanded Caritas Christi sell the Carney. "The story wasn't necessarily accurate. We never met with [ Carney president] Dan O'Leary, for instance."

"The two things we said were: 'If Caritas wants to keep Carney that's fine, but what is the plan?'" said Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry. "The other piece was, if they don't want to invest in Carney, then they have to let it go. Don't let it die a slow death."

The group, which also included Senator Jack Hart and City Council President Maureen Feeney, also asked for a meeting with the archdiocese, but later regretted doing so in print.

"We're very uncomfortable with using the Globe as a vehicle to ask for a meeting," said Justin Holmes, spokesperson for Feeney. "We haven't formally requested a meeting yet."

Spokesperson for the archdiocese, Terrence Donilon, did not return calls asking for the archdiocese's response to the idea of selling off the Carney. He referred the Reporter to Caritas Christi public relations man Steve Danehy via e-mail, who said Carney public relations woman Margaret Carr would answer questions. She said she would check with someone and call back.

After reporting a $1.9 million loss in the third quarter of fiscal year 2007, and a 10 percent drop in inpatient volume, many became alarmed about the Carney's future. Now Carney's public relations people and administration insiders say inpatient volume is beginning to bounce back and future finance projections, while not stellar, still look relatively positive.

Elected officials and representatives of Dorchester's health centers and other large local hospital chains are poised to help, with some even open to beginning talks on resurrecting old ties with the Carney by feeding the community hospital more referrals. State legislators are looking into various ways they can direct aid and Congressman Stephen Lynch seems to be taking the lead on meeting with the archdiocese.

"My role has been to try to persuade some of the major stakeholders to be more flexible as we look for solutions," said Lynch in an e-mail Tuesday, not naming Cardinal Seán O'Malley directly.

But Caritas Christi is still running without a CEO in place. Robert M. Haddad resigned in 2006 amid allegations he gave unwanted hugs and kisses to female employees. Many familiar with the chain have said that a leaderless Caritas Christi leaves too much power in the hands of Archdiocese officials, who have other concerns to address.

Carr said Caritas Christi set a goal of 90 days from Monday to choose a new CEO, which would mean a new leader by Feb. 3.

"The task is to develop an effective response to all these problems quickly, before the situation further deteriorates," said Lynch, who is keeping tabs on the situation from Washington. "In this, we are all in agreement and committed to seeing Carney survive and thrive."