Starkman: Dingell and Tlaib Feign Concern Over Beaumont Merger with CEO Pen Pal John Fox

August 23, 2020, 11:18 PM

The writer, a Los Angeles freelancer, is a former Detroit News business reporter who blogs aStarkman Approved.

By Eric Starkman

Reps. Debbie Dingell and Rashida Tlaib

Good morning, Congresswomen Debbie Dingell and Rashida Tlaib. How wonderful that you’ve suddenly taken notice that hospitals serving your constituents are at grave risk of being consumed by an Illinois-based company.

In a news release Friday that only the Arab Daily News took notice of, Dingell and Tlaib announced they’ve sent a letter to Beaumont Health CEO John Fox asking for “additional details” about Beaumont’s proposed merger with Chicago-based Advocate Aurora and its impact on patient care. They also inqured about “outstanding concerns raised by Beaumont physicians and other stakeholders.”

The merger was announced June 17.

The congresswomen's latest letter

It’s the third known letter that Dingell and Tlaib have sent to Fox. On April 14, the duo wrote a letter to Fox expressing concern about him closing Beaumont’s Wayne hospital. Two days later they sent a follow-up letter.

If Fox ever responded, Dingell and Tlaib have yet to share the answers with the public.

Among questions Dingell and Tlaib ask  in their latest correspondence with their CEO pen pal are whether Advocate Aurora is legally bound to make more than $1 billion in investments in Beaumont, whether Beaumont doctors have been consulted on the merger, and how the exodus of prominent doctors and the decline of Beaumont’s reputation is being addressed.

No Obligations

Beaumont CEO John Fox

Indications are that Fox doesn’t take Dingell and Tlaib all that seriously, so I’m stepping up to the plate and answering their questions.

No, Advocate Aurora isn’t legally obligated to make any investments in Beaumont once it gains control of the hospital network. CEOs always tout promised benefits when peddling a merger their championing, but often the benefits never materialize. In fact, Advocate Aurora is in a cost-cutting mode because of the pandemic.

We all know the pandemic will be in the distant past by next year, right?

The only investment assurances are Fox’s word, and he will likely be long gone from Michigan if and when the merger is approved. Hopefully, Fox will have mail to his Bloomfield estate forwarded to his Atlanta home so that Dingell and Tlaib can continue to write him letters.

Studies show that hospital mergers result in higher patient costs and lower quality of care. So even if Advocate Aurora makes good on Fox’s promised investment, Dingell’s and Tlaib’s constituents are going to foot the bill.

Beaumont doctors weren’t consulted on the merger until a few weeks ago. A recent survey revealed the majority of them do not support it. As for the decline in Beaumont’s reputation, the company’s board hasn’t expressed any concern.

Beaumont’s southern hospitals of Dearborn, Wayne, Trenton, and Taylor serve communities that Dingell and Tlaib represent. These hospitals last week saw about a 60-percent turnover of anesthesiologists because of a controversial outsourcing deal with a low-cost provider. Beaumont COO Carolyn Wilson said in a court affidavit that a major disruption of anesthesiologists would adversely impact patient care, particularly during a pandemic.

Dingell and Tlaib didn’t inquire in their letter about the anesthesiology turnover at their district hospitals.

Shameful PR Ploy 

Firing off a letter to Fox is a shameful PR move and an insult to Dingell’s and Tlaib’s constituents. One benefit of being a member of Congress is that you can pretty much get any executive on the phone on a moment’s notice. If Dingell and Tlaib really wanted meaningful answers, they would instruct their chiefs of staff: “Get me John Fox on the line.”

Admittedly, Fox is possibly the one CEO that isn’t afraid to diss elected officials where he does business. During the pandemic, he delegated COO Carolyn Wilson to deal with Dingell and Tlaib.

And Dingell is on record as saying that she couldn’t get a straight answer from Wilson.

"I'm deeply disturbed," she told Channel 7 last April of her dealings with Wilson. 

Ohio Rep. Marcy Kaptur

The leadership of Dingell and Tlaib is an embarrassment when compared to Ohio representative Marcy Kaptur, the longest-serving female representative in the House of Representatives. When the University of Toledo announced it was planning to sell its teaching hospital, Kaptur promptly weighed in with an unequivocal statement:

“Decisions of this magnitude require careful consideration, transparency, oversight, and input from the community. The sale of northwest Ohio’s only public hospital during a public health emergency in my view would not only be a mistake, but a moral injustice.”

The University of Toledo promptly abandoned its sale plans.

That’s what leadership sounds like. If constituents in Dingell’s and Tlaib’s districts are looking for that kind of meaningful representation, they might consider moving to Ohio.

► Read two-page letter from congresswomen to Fox

Reach Eric Starkman at Beaumont employees and vendors are encouraged to reach out, with confidentiality assured. 

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