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Should Paul Levy Get Up To $1.6M As He Leaves Beth Israel?

Paul Levy
Paul Levy

The Boston Globe reports here that outgoing Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center chief and prominent blogger Paul Levy will receive up to $1.6 million — about two years' salary — in severance in a "negotiated departure." Sounds a little different from Paul Levy's blog description of realizing as he biked through some North African mountains that running a hospital just wasn't floating his boat anymore.

The Globe's Liz Kowalczyk reports:

"The Board concluded that this agreement was in the best interest of the medical center and the people it serves ..." board chairman Stephen Kay wrote in an e-mail to the hospital community this afternoon. "Just under two years before Paul's contract would have expired, the Board of Directors has agreed with Paul on a negotiated departure."

The e-mail suggests a more complicated scenario behind Levy's departure than he and Kay described Jan. 7, the day Levy announced his resignation. At the time, Kay had said, "Paul wanted a change, there's nothing more to it."

In an e-mail to the Globe today, Kay elaborated on how the decision unfolded, after the board had completed Levy's first comprehensive job evaluation. Kay said that when Levy returned from a vacation to Morocco, "I updated him on questions that had been raised about his level of engagement and I told him that recent performance reviews had been mixed."

He "raised the question of whether it would be better for BIDMC if he stepped down," Kay continued. "Initially, his suggestion took me off guard but soon I calculated that the medical center might be better served with a leader who did not take as a burden the day to day challenges of a 'post turn-around' institution."

Did the scandal around Paul Levy's relationship with a young mentee play a role in the decision by the hospital or its chief? Whether it did or not, that relationship is playing a role in the opprobrium heaped on the outgoing chief by some commenters on boston.com. But there are also defenders like this one:

Paul Levy has done more for BIDMC than most of you ignorant mutton heads have ever done in your careers. First, he reversed the hospital's financial spiral. This was followed by him successfully navigating through our most recent recession by collaborating with all of the hospital employees to minimize job loss by temporarily reducing raises, vacation time, etc. Once the hospital's finances stabilized, he returned all of the previous benefits lost as promised. By accounts of those that have worked in proximity to this man, he is an empathetic leader that strives for the good of the whole. Yes he made a mistake/err in judgment, but the ridiculous demonization of this man that positively affected so many people is disheartening.

Veronica Turner, the executive vice president of the state's largest health care union, 1199SEIU, issued a statement saying in part: "The board should immediately rescind this agreement and return the money to the public charity of the hospital. Every year, BIDMC receives massive amounts of scarce public dollars."

The payout "demonstrates Levy’s past statements about his departure as completely non-transparent, even duplicitous, and shows his willingness to take scarce public dollars for his own personal gain."

Thoughts, anyone?

This program aired on January 21, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.

Carey Goldberg Twitter Editor, CommonHealth
Carey Goldberg is the editor of WBUR's CommonHealth blog.

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