Bulger to join Carney as senior advisor

William M. Bulger, the former president of UMass and the Massachusetts State Senate, will bring his potent rolodex and fundraising prowess to Dorchester this summer, joining Caritas Carney Hospital as a Senior Advisor to the hospital's foundation.

The move, announced Wednesday by hospital president Dr. Daniel H. O'Leary, comes as Carney prepares to move from the control of the Archdiocesan-controlled Caritas Christi Health Care system to a new owner, Ascension Health, a national Catholic chain.

"Mr. Bulger's roots in the Dorchester and South Boston communities provide him with unparalleled experience and expertise to further the vision of our hospital," Dr. O'Leary said in a statement released today.

"His dedication to the people we serve will further enhance our work.His wise counsel will provide us a great benefit as we move forward in our endeavors to serve our community."

The specifics of Bulger's role "to support the mission" of Carney were not spelled out by O'Leary or Bulger, who said this week that he expects to spend "quite a lot of time" on site at the Lower Mills campus, familiarizing himself with the hospital and with the health care industry as a whole.

"I am honored to have been asked," Bulger told the Reporter this week. "I view Carney as such a great institution. It can be taken for granted, but amenities like the Carney are the very foundation of community life."

Bulger, who represented both South Boston and parts of Dorchester during his career in the State Legislature, continues to have strong connections in state government and private industry. While his paid role at Carney is not described as a "development" job, Bulger will likely play a key role in helping Carney identify potential donors and political allies.

Bulger, who was ousted from his job as UMass president by former Gov. Mitt Romney in 2004, won broad acclaim for his work in raising the university's profile and prestige, as well as for leading an unprecedented campaign to fill its coffers. Under Bulger, UMass raised more than $150 million in gifts from alumni and other donors, more than doubling previous fundraising records for the public university.

Jim Hunt, II, a Carney trustee and the president of the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers, says that Bulger's strong reputation across the region will be valuable asset to Carney.

"I think it's a terrific choice," Hunt said. "He's been a champion of many causes, including those that help the most vulnerable and Carney is a fabulous example of that."

Bulger will join the Carney foundation at a pivotal time in the hospital's history. Carney is among the health facilities that is being sold by the Catholic Church in Boston to Ascension Health, a St. Louis based hospital chain, in a deal that is due to be transacted next month. Carney has been part of the Caritas system since 1996.

Under the agreement now being finalized, Ascension will likely assume "sponsorship" of the state's second largest health care system, which in addition to Carney and St. Mary's Women & Children Center on Jones Hill, includes St. Elizabeth's Medical Center in Boston and hospitals in Brockton, Fall River Methuen, and Norwood. Caritas also runs a variety of other health facilities, including Dorchester's Laboure nursing center on the Carney campus. St. Mary's Women and Children's Center, presently a Caritas-linked facility housed at the site of the former St. Margaret's hospital, does not plan to affiliate itself with Ascension.

This week, Bulger acknowledged that he will need to brush up on some of the finer points of the state's new health care laws, which were transformed last year in sweeping legislation that promises coverage to nearly every resident in the state.

"Dr. O'Leary made it clear to me that the role would develop over time. They wanted me to be free to come to terms with it," says Bulger.