Says He's Stepping Down So Hospital Can Move Forward
January 7, 2006
By HILARY WALDMAN, Courant Staff Writer
Larry Gold, president and chief executive
officer of Connecticut Children's Medical Center, resigned Friday,
sending another aftershock through an institution that has been
rocked by allegations that management and procedural lapses have
jeopardized patient safety.
Gold's decision to step down followed
months of turmoil that began last May, when the state Department
of Public Health imposed a $250,000 fine and placed the hospital
on probation, charging that communication gaps and policy flaws
may have contributed to the deaths of three children in 2004 and
In September, complaining that the
hospital was dragging its feet in making improvements, Public Health
Commissioner J. Robert Galvin threatened to take steps to revoke
the hospital's license if several conditions were not met by Nov.
Hospital leaders came up with an ambitious
plan of corrective action and appointed an internal oversight committee
to implement the plan. Peter Deckers, the dean of the University
of Connecticut Medical School, and Martin J. Gavin, the hospital's
first chairman of the board, were put in charge of the oversight
With the plan in place, the health
commissioner called off any immediate threat to try to close the
10-year-old children's hospital in Hartford.
Gold did not say Friday what he plans
to do next. He declined a request to be interviewed. In a prepared
statement, he suggested that his resignation was necessary to allow
the hospital to move on.
"Though this was a difficult decision
and one made after a great deal of deliberation, I am stepping back
so that CCMC can continue to move forward to an exciting future,"
Gold said. "I believe that the new leadership will allow CCMC
to leverage [an] opportunity to become even stronger and assume
a national presence in the next decade."
Gavin, 55, who is retired from the
financial services industry, Friday was named acting president and
chief executive officer. Deckers, 64, became interim chief medical
officer. A national search is in progress to find permanent replacements.
Deckers said he plans to spend two
days a week at the children's hospital. His goal, he said, is to
create "the safest, highest quality pediatric hospital in the
land while not sacrificing its excellence of education in pediatric
Gavin said he has met with an executive
search firm and hopes to have a new permanent chief operating officer
in place within four months, although that timetable may be optimistic.
Gold spent Friday saying goodbye to
hospital employees, many of them in tears. "It's a difficult
day," said children's hospital spokesman Thomas Hanley.
Gold joined the children's hospital
shortly after it opened in 1996 as its chief financial officer.
Gavin, who was then chairman of the board, promoted him to the top
spot a year later when a financial crisis threatened to topple the
new hospital almost before it could make its mark.
"The finances and the planning
for that children's hospital were absolutely horrific," said
Dr. Robert Zavoski, the hospital's former medical director who is
now medical director of Community Health Services, a public health
clinic in Hartford. "He has managed to right that financial
ship in some very tough times in the history of the state."
Gold, 53, who earlier spent 14 years
at the helm of children's hospitals, first in Pittsburgh, and later
in Peoria, Ill., quickly became one of the Hartford children's hospital's
most ardent cheerleaders. He liked to lug a plastic bag full of
miniature blood pressure cuffs to speaking engagements to illustrate
his point that treating children is different from treating adults.
"He brings a tremendous amount
of energy to telling the story of CCMC," said Ed Lewis, chairman
of the medical center's board of directors. "He is revered
for his fundraising and his ability to connect with people."
Alfreda Turner, president and chief
executive officer of Charter Oak Health Center, another public health
clinic in Hartford, said she was saddened by the news and called
Gold "visionary." In May, Gold signed an agreement turning
over management of the hospital's primary care clinic to the Charter
Oak center. The deal gave children and their families access to
mental health and dental care that they could not get at a hospital-run
Gold's down-to-earth leadership style
won him affection among employees, and the hospital was well-regarded
for its cancer care, its pediatric intensive care unit, its outpatient
clinics for needy children, its openness to alternative and complementary
medicine and its innovative programs for children with rare conditions,
such as osteoporosis.
He was enjoying a highly successful
tenure until last May when the state issued a 100-page report detailing
communication lapses and management gaps that it said could have
put patients in danger.
In one 2004 case detailed in the state
report, a 15-year-old West Hartford boy died after emergency room
personnel waited more than 90 minutes to read a chest X-ray that
revealed clues of a heart injury that might have been repaired.
Another death, the state concluded,
might have been prevented by tighter hospital security, and a third,
in which a child died of an unrecognized complication of sickle
cell disease, pointed up a lack of leadership in the emergency department,
state regulators said.
The hospital's ambitious plan for correcting
the gaps includes purchasing a digital imaging system that will
allow X-rays and other scans to be read instantly at any hour of
the day or night. It also includes appointing physician specialists
to head every medical and surgical department, tightening security,
increasing staffing and training in the emergency room, and improving
supervision of physicians in training at the hospital.
Health department spokesman William
Gerrish said Galvin is encouraged by the progress but is still not
satisfied that the hospital has implemented enough safeguards to
ensure maximum patient safety.
"The department has seen some
progress toward improved hospital systems at CCMC," Gerrish
said. "We still have areas of concern and see a need for further
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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