New report on Carney status seen as 'positive'

While community leaders hold a public meeting to discuss strategies to keep Caritas Carney Hospital as an acute care facility tonight, executive members of Caritas Christi Healthcare's Board of Governors will also be briefed on a long-anticipated consultant's report on the future of the financially-challenged hospital.

The coincidental timing of the two meetings has some speculating on who might show at the public meeting on Adams Street in the Sheet Metal Workers Hall at 6:30 tonight, and also the possibility that the report could be released to the public by sundown, but neither possibility was confirmed by Caritas representatives.

In any case, newly appointed Caritas Christi CEO Ralph de la Torre is scheduled to visit the hospital on Friday for a 7:30 a.m. breakfast with hospital staff and a series of other pre-scheduled tours and meetings. He is expected to reveal at least a few details from the report.

"We've seen the preliminary report and it's all very positive things about Carney," said Carney spokesperson Margaret Carr. "It shows ways to move forward."

The rumor mill among Dorchester's health leaders confers on the positive tint of the final report, but very few details on what it actually says are available as of yet.

"From what I understand, the document drawn up by the 'Strengthen the Carney' group has hit the mark," said Bill Walczak, director of the Codman Square Health Center. "This is not just one of those emotional things. There are real issues, such as the emergency room and the mental health beds, that would be very bad to lose."

The Coalition to Strengthen the Carney has steadily merged the various stakeholders in the hospital over the last few months, bringing nurses, workers, healthcare leaders, elected officials and the community together on the issue. Recent developments have been encouraging, said Dan Driscoll, director of Harbor Health Services and 'point person' for the coalition, particularly the selection of de la Torre as Caritas Christi CEO in April. On Tuesday Attorney General Martha Coakley also endorsed governance changes that the Archdiocese recently undertook to give the hospital chain more independence from the church in business matters.

"I think you're looking at a new day," Driscoll said. "I've heard the report is very positive for the future of the Caritas Carney and I've heard the leadership is embracing it. What I've heard from a variety of different people is that the folks that have been working on this issue are not going to be disappointed."