Letter to Editor: Public Trust Betrayed by UMMS Board of Directors

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About two weeks ago the details of the appalling ethical breach of the UMMS Board of Directors appeared in the news, thanks to the work of investigative reporters at The Baltimore Sun. The revelation that nine of the thirty Board members were engaged in lucrative business deals with the health care system came to light. The amounts varied from hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars per person, and were ethically suspect for lack of competitive bidding and/or financial disclosure. The one who has gotten the most press is the Mayor of Baltimore, Catherine Pugh, who received $500,000.00 for her children’s health book, “Healthy Holly”. (Of interest, 8,700 of these remain, unread, in a warehouse).

Both the State Senate and House rightly responded with outrage, and introduced companion bills SB619 and HB1428 that call for a comprehensive audit, place more stringent requirements on contracts, and require vetting of board members by the Senate, among other things.

Thus far, three Board members have resigned, and the others with system contracts have been placed on leaves of absence. After a closed door session on March 21 that included Governor Hogan, Senate President Miller, and Mr. Chrencik, CEO of UMMS, Mr. Chrencik was placed on leave. Governor Hogan has called this situation “unseemly” and “appalling”. As a retired physician, formerly associated with Shore Regional Health, I agree.

All self-dealing is deplorable. The fact that it has occurred in an institution that is largely funded by Maryland taxpayers makes it an absolute betrayal of public trust. Our Shore Hospitals have worked hard to maintain quality patient service, largely through the effort of dedicated hospital workers. It is hard for hospital supervisors to read facts such as UMMS revenue of $4.4 billion in 2018, when they are told for the umpteenth time to cut costs and staffing. And Mr. Chrencik’s salary of $4.2 million a year seems an insult, particularly in view of his lack of ethical oversight of the Board.

The UMMS Board has voted to have an “independent audit”. Hopefully, there will be assurances that this legal/accounting audit will be truly independent, include in-depth forensic and investigative evaluation of the Board’s processes, and have the authority to refer any illegal activity to the State Attorney General’s office.

Eva M. Smorzaniuk, M.D.
Trappe

Letters to Editor

  1. Rebecca F. Gaffney says

    As recent patients at St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Baltimore and Shore Medical Center in Easton, my husband and I were extremely pleased with the care and professional attention we received at both institutions. It is an understatement to say we were dismayed, shocked (and, yes, outraged) to learn within the last week of the lack of oversight in the financial dealings of the UMMS Board of Directors.

    The public has a right to expect the highest ethical standards from those whose decisions affect the healthcare of thousands of patients. The arrogance of board members in financially enriching themselves took precedence over critical, thoughtful guidance. Unfortunately, no one on the board was courageous enough to put a stop to the greed which enveloped the board…not for months…but for years.

    I am encouraged to know that in addition to legislative action a full investigation of this shameful episode into the UMMS Board is slated, with findings hopefully brought to the State Attorney General’s office for appropriate action. Our communities deserve better.

  2. Jane Bollman says

    I was very glad to read Dr. Smorzaniuk’s letter chastising UMMS officials and Catherine Pugh for the greed that has come to light through their shameful actions. As a former Shore Health physician her words are especially meaningful.

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