Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Former Fletcher Allen Health Care CEO Sentenced for Conspiracy

As reported in the Rutland Herald and the Burlington Free Press....
William Boettcher, the former CEO of Fletcher Allen Health Care, an academic medical center affiliated with the University of Vermont, was sentenced to two years in jail for federal conspiracy. He was convicted of misleading the Vermont state legislature about the true cost of the "Renaissance Project," a massive hospital renovation project ostensibly budgeted for $173 million, but actually costing $367 million. Boettcher kept two sets of books on the project, one for the legislature's benefit, and one that reflected the true cost.
As the judge put it:
  • "'You're here because you orchestrated a scheme to lie to state regulators,' Judge Sessions scolded Boettcher. 'That goes to the heart of purpose and functions of state. How would government function when it is treated so dismissively and with such deceit? 'Most of us approach our jobs with a keen sense of humility and pride," Sessions continued. "Mr. Boettcher approached his job with arrogance and deceit.'"
  • "In court Monday, Boettcher was hardly recognizable as the man whom prosecutors have portrayed as a boss who bullied and intimidated his managers into doing his bidding. In a nearly 50 minute statement, the former CEO wept openly, apologizing for his and his co-conspirators' lies to state regulators. "
David Demers, a former Fletcher Allen Senior Vice President, described Boettcher in this way:
  • "He controlled those around him and managed those around him by fear and intimidation and I would say that as a manager he's a 'Theory X,' a management style that assumes people need to be frightened and threatened in order to perform."
Is this the sort of manager that rises to a leadership position in today's large health care organizations? Before dismissing this case as an aberration, consider a story in yesterday's New York Times about the excessive number of beds in Buffalo, NY. When asked for an explanation, William D. McGuire, CEO of Kaleida Health, commented about his peers,
  • "But an awful lot of the obstacle is CEO ego. We're kingdom builders as a group: 'I've got to have more beds than you do. I've got to have more hospitals than you do. I've got to have the biggest empire."
Again, this suggests that the new corporate culture of health care often attracts as leaders the sorts of people least suited to run organizations whose goal is taking care of individual patients.

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