Carney Hospital seeks outside help from consultant

A high-end hospital turnaround expert has been brought in to diagnose the Caritas Carney Hospital on Dorchester Avenue. Dawn Gideon of Wellspring Partners, a hospital consulting firm recently acquired by Huron Consulting Group, is the chosen one, known for her role in trying to prop up the ailing and eventually failing Waltham Hospital earlier this decade, and more recently for making tough decisions for the St. Vincent Catholic Medical Centers in New York, which spun off three of its five hospitals on her recommendations.

"They've been hired to come in and do a full review of our organization," said Margaret Carr, a spokesperson for the Carney. "The ultimate goal is to give us recommendations going forward."

When asked if Caritas Christi Healthcare, which owns the Carney, would consider selling or closing the Carney if Gideon recommended it, Carr said, "I don't feel comfortable saying it's a possibility. It's not the main intent. Their goal is to improve our operations… Every hospital has its own story, it's own set of circumstances."

Carr added that the Carney's own plans for improving the bottom line are already bearing fruit. "For the second month in a row we're actually performing better than projected, both inpatient and outpatient admissions are above projections."

The Carney also recently hired endocrinologist Dr. Mohammud Saad, an expert in diabetes treatment, and Dr. David John, a new director for the Emergency Room.

Wellspring's review will include a look at the situation outside the Carney's walls as well, said Carr. Gideon and her colleagues are expected to reach out to the community, local politicians, clergy, and business leaders. "They're looking with their eyes wide open, at where we fit into the community, competition. They're doing a full analysis."

Gideon's career has seen many turns. As CEO of Waltham Hospital in 2002 and 2003, Gideon tried to steer a clear path for a money-losing facility that had just been sold by Caregroup Inc., another multi-hospital system, early in 2002. The community and staff came together with a plan for a financial rebound, but losses continued and the hospital closed in July of 2003.

"Community hospitals are nice, but we don't want to use them," Gideon was quoted by the Boston Globe when the hospital closed its doors, an allusion to the highly competitive nature of healthcare in the Massachusetts market.

In 2006, Gideon helped steer St. Vincent Catholic Medical Centers of New York out of one of the largest hospital-system bankruptcies in recent years, a plan that divested three of St. Vincent's five hospitals.

Dorchester's elected officials, Attorney General Martha Coakley and many in the healthcare industry are watching the Carney's and parent Caritas Christi Healthcare's moves closely after the hospital reported a $2 million loss in fiscal 2007, which ended in September. A spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Boston, which owns Caritas Christi, formerly said the church has no plans to sell the Carney to a non-Catholic hospital chain.