Merger opponent speaks out to the press

by Bei Hu

Opponents of the proposed merger between the University Hospital and Fairview Health Systems were denied a time slot at the regents’ July meeting. But they had a chance to express their opinions Thursday in front of the media.
About 40 local news journalists attended a press conference on Northrop Mall two hours before regents met to discuss the proposed merger. Dr. Arnold LandÇ, a former Fairview physician who is critical of the health system, delivered an hour-long presentation.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees co-sponsored the press conference with two local citizens’ groups, Minnesota Citizens Organized Acting Together and the Minnesota Senior Federation. AFSCME represents 1,100 workers at the University Hospital and Clinic.
The co-sponsors called the meeting to endorse LandÇ’s request to present his concerns about the quality of Fairview health care to the regents. The regents turned down the request Tuesday.
LandÇ, who was fired from his position at Fairview Southdale Hospital in Edina in April, attacked the health system’s management and medical practice in his presentation.
“I witnessed in very close quarters what was to me the most outrageous and perverse Fairview practice,” he said.
LandÇ said a merger with Fairview would only jeopardize health care quality.
He cited the absence of open conferences on morbidity and mortality, among other things, as an indicator of Fairview’s flawed management and medical practice.
Morbidity and mortality conferences and peer reviews, he said, are a standard practice at hospitals when patients die or have complications resulting from medical treatment.
LandÇ said such conferences, held on rare occasions at Fairview, were often abused and used to tarnish employees’ reputations, making it easier to dismiss unpopular employees. When faced with public criticism in the last two years, he said, Fairview administration worked to transform the public conferences into closed executive sessions.
Instead of correcting the mistakes of lower-level management, LandÇ said Fairview’s top executives “by one means or another manipulated the process” to intimidate opposition and cover up mistakes.
With Fairview’s existing problems, LandÇ said, “I don’t think that is a kind of organization that should be the savior of the University of Minnesota (Hospital).”
Representatives of the conference co-sponsors agreed.
AFSCME Local 1164 President Ruth Bettendorf, apparently embittered by what she said was a lack of public input into the negotiation process, said: “We’ve seen the (University) administration do a lot of terrible mismanagement. … The public should be asking ‘Are they doing it again with this merger?'”
No University or Fairview administrators attended the meeting.
Frank Cerra, provost of the University Academic Health Center, said that LandÇ’s charges had never been a real concern in the negotiation process.
Fairview Southdale administrator Mark Enger also dismissed LandÇ’s accusations. He said the physician was fired for poor medical performance, not for his outspokenness, as LandÇ alleges.