Beaumont Health appointed three private doctors to its board of directors, increasing the number of physicians on the board to six and the total board to 19 members.
The move by Beaumont this week is intended to quell dissatisfaction with board and management decisions on the heels of several negative physician and nurse surveys over the summer and a backlash against a large merger deal.
But several critics of Beaumont CEO John Fox and board Chairman John Lewis told Crain’s that although the three doctors are top-notch clinicians, they don’t believe the appointments change their opinion that the board should be overhauled, Fox should be replaced and a new top management team installed.
Effective Jan. 1, the three new directors are Drs. Abed Asfour, Ashok Jain and Robert Welsh. Their first board meeting will be in February.
“We are thrilled to add three physicians to our distinguished board. We made a commitment earlier this year to increase physician representation on our board. Many physicians were nominated, and we went through a comprehensive review process that ultimately led us to select these three esteemed physicians,” Lewis said in a news release. “All of our board members volunteer their time and talent to support Beaumont in advancing our efforts to provide compassionate, extraordinary care every day to the communities we serve.”
Asfour is vice chief of staff and cardiology section chief and director of interventional cardiology at at Beaumont Hospital Trenton. He also is clinical assistant professor of medicine at Wayne State University and lives in Dearborn.
Jain is an internist and chief medical officer at Beaumont Hospital Wayne. He lives in Bloomfield Hills.
Welsh is a thoracic surgeon who practices at Beaumont’s three northern hospitals. He also is a physician executive for surgical specialty with the Beaumont Medical Group and lives in Lake Angelus. He also is an associate professor at the Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine in Rochester Hills.
In a news release, Beaumont confirmed it committed several months ago to increase physician representation on the board, as Crain’s reported in August.
A Beaumont spokesperson said the nomination process was open to all 5,000 Beaumont Health physicians and 15 practicing physicians were nominated. The overall vetting process used blinded scores to determine the top candidates and governance experience was a factor in selection, the spokesperson said.
The Beaumont board also includes three other doctors: David Wood Jr., Beaumont’s chief medical officer; Harris Mainster; and Robert Williams.
Mainster is a general surgeon in Farmington Hills who has been practicing more than 60 years. Williams, a retired family physician who lives in Richmond, Va., has been a medical consultant with several large accounting firms. He was appointed in 2019 to the Beaumont board to bring a perspective from outside of Michigan, Beaumont said in a release.
Several physician leaders contacted by Crain’s, who requested anonymity, praised the new appointees as clinicians but said the moves do little to address their concerns.
Another prominent critic of current management and governance at the health system, Mark Shaevsky, told Crain’s that the three private doctors selected by Beaumont are honorable men and good physicians. But in an email to Crain’s, Shaevsky, a former Beaumont board vice chair, donor and director for 17 years, said adding three doctors to the board doesn’t address the governance issues the board has.
Shaevsky said the board’s problems are illustrated by poor oversight of the two failed mergers this year, the exodus of top doctors and lack of action to address widespread criticism of management by doctors, nurses, donors, community leaders and elected local representatives.
“In a way, it is almost an insult to the professionals at Beaumont, a form of saying that if we add some of ‘your people’ to the board, it would show that we hear what you are saying,” said Shaevsky, an attorney who heads up Mark Shaevsky & Associates, LLC – Management Advisors in Farmington Hills.
“The real problem is that the Beaumont board is self-perpetuating,” he said. “The directors elect each other, unlike a public company where the shareholders — the owners — elect the directors. So, at Beaumont, the directors have no accountability to an ownership body.”
A fundamental problem is that Beaumont, as a nonprofit corporation, is owned by the entire community, but the community doesn’t elect the directors, Shaevsky said.
“They just elect each other or whomever else they decide. It is run like a private club, but it is a $5 billion asset that belongs to all of us, not to the directors,” he said.
Shaevsky also said Beaumont should have nurses on its governing board like it did before merging with Oakwood Healthcare and Botsford Hospital in 2014. Shaevsky said Beaumont needs more community board directors who would represent community interests.
“At the present time, the board does not have enough of that caliber of individual,” Shaevsky said. “Too many board members are not asking the penetrating types of questions, and demanding the resultant accountability.”
For example, Shaevsky said the Beaumont board unanimously expressed support in July for a merger with Advocate Aurora Health of Illinois and Wisconsin. He said the merger would have given away Beaumont to an out-of-state corporation for approximately $345 million over three years from Advocate Aurora.
“It was only when the community become aware of this failure of fiduciary responsibility and rose up to challenge the sale that the transaction was supposedly terminated,” Shaevsky said.
Beaumont Health has total net revenue of $4.7 billion and consists of eight hospitals with 3,429 beds, 145 outpatient sites, nearly 5,000 physicians, 38,000 employees and 3,500 volunteers. In 2018, Beaumont Health had about 178,000 inpatient discharges, 18,000 births and 573,000 emergency visits, making it one of Michigan’s largest health systems.
This article orginally appeared in Crain’s Detroit Business.