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Steward spokesman: Reporter off base in assessing management of Carney Hospital

On April 26, 2012, the Dorchester Reporter published an editorial titled, “New president, ominous signs at Carney Hospital” questioning Steward Health Care’s commitment to Carney both now and in the future. While we agree that the Dorchester Reporter is entitled to its own opinions, they are not entitled to their own facts.

When Steward acquired Carney eighteen months ago, Carney was out of options. Every independent study by private and public organizations said the hospital needed to close. Steward alone stood up and committed to keep the hospital open. Every other community hospital, academic hospital or community health organization took a pass. How quickly the Dorchester Reporter forgets.

The facts supporting Steward’s commitment to Carney are clear and irrefutable. In the past eighteen months, Steward has:

Saved 1,000 jobs at Carney from certain elimination

Paid off all Carney’s debt totaling $26 million

Guaranteed Carney employees’ pension liabilities of $23 million. Without this payment, Carney employees and retirees who have worked long and hard at the hospital would be left with nothing.

Invested $18 million in new operating rooms, patient areas and infrastructure to make up for years of neglect

Absorbed and funded an operating loss of $21 million last year, more than a threefold increase in operating losses from the previous year.

Continued to fund monthly operating losses to the tune of $1.5 million per month- or $9 million from October – March

All told, in eighteen short months since Steward Health Care acquired Carney Hospital we have committed over $90,000,000 to keep it open provide care to the Dorchester community, and honor commitments made for employee and retiree benefits. If that’s not commitment, we’d like to know the Dorchester Reporter’s definition of the term.

Another example of our commitment was our hiring of a world class, experienced hospital CEO, Andy Davis, to help make Carney into the world class hospital Dorchester deserves.

What the Dorchester Reporter massively fails to understand is that commitment is a two-way street. It appears that their explicit editorial policy is not to support efforts to embrace the hospital and encourage the community to use it. Instead, they sit on the sidelines and take pot shots at the same management team that saved Carney and poured over $90 million into it. In a breathtaking leap of logic, the Dorchester Reporter publisher somehow even feels he has the right or expertise to pick the president of this $150 million-a-year operation.

Despite the lack of any editorial support by the Dorchester Reporter and the indifference of local community health centers to support the hospital, Steward is steadfastly committed to Carney and will continue to demonstrate that commitment financially and managerially. The wonderful employees of Carney, our patients, and the Dorchester community deserve no less.

It will take a community effort to keep Carney going. Patients, community health centers, local employers and yes even the Dorchester Reporter all need to support the hospital. At least we know where one of those constituents stands; I guess you could say, “No good deed goes unpunished”… by the Dorchester Reporter.

Christopher Murphy
Director, Media Relations
Steward Health Care System

Mr. Murphy and his hospital

In the columns opposite this editorial, we are publishing word for word a letter sent to us by Christopher Murphy, Director of Media Relations for Steward Health Care System, the for-profit proprietor of the Carney Hospital, about our reporting and commentary on the circumstances surrounding the recent deposing of longtime Dorchester health care steward Bill Walczak and the hiring of a North Carolina man to take his place.

In high-dudgeon style, Mr. Murphy takes the Reporter to task for, among other things, not helping to burnish the good name of his employers and also for not encouraging others in the community to do business with his enterprise, to wit: “It appears that their explicit editorial policy is not to support efforts to embrace the hospital and encourage the community to use it.” En passant, Mr. Murphy takes a swipe at local community health centers, bemoaning what he terms their “indifference” when it comes to supporting the big hospital on Dorchester Avenue.

Mr. Murphy lays out a truly impressive list of investments made by the Steward Health Care System in the Carney Hospital as it continues to play a vital role in providing health care to the residents of our large community. The Reporter is on record as congratulating Steward for putting so much money up to buttress the viability of the hospital. And we are very encouraged by the words of incoming hospital CEO Andrew Davis last week when he told our state and city legislators that he “values” transparency, an executive virtue that is particularly appreciated in our newsroom.

But the main thrust of Mr. Murphy’s grievance against this newspaper seems to be that we are failing in what he sees as our responsibility to be a cheerleader in our community for the business he represents, a strange position, it seems to us, for a media relations professional to take about a newspaper.

The Reporter takes its mission seriously: We seek to report the news about Dorchester and Mattapan in all its fullness, the good with the bad, and to take responsibility for that coverage. This newspaper has always been highly supportive of local endeavors that seek to enhance the health – physical, charitable, and spiritual – of this community. And we will continue to salute those who contribute to its welfare, not by leading the cheers for specific individuals and businesses but by reporting and commenting on the gap that can separate what people and businesses say and what they do.

–The Editors