Starkman: Beaumont Chief John Fox to Detroit-Area Children -- FU Too

October 16, 2020, 8:49 PM

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

By Eric Starkman

Kelly Levasseur

Beaumont Health CEO John Fox, the Atlanta accountant carpetbagger responsible for the implosion of Michigan’s biggest hospital network, has allowed another specialty practice to decline under his watch: Pediatrics.

Kelly Levasseur, who developed Beaumont’s accredited pediatric emergency medicine fellowship and was the hospital network’s medical director for pediatric emergency medicine, quietly departed this month to become a staff physician at University Pediatricians, the nonprofit practice of physicians associated with Detroit Medical Center’s Children’s Hospital of Michigan. Levasseur has been featured on various local news broadcasts and Hour Magazine ranked her one of the area’s top doctors for the past six years.

Levasseur’s departure comes after the firing this year of Brian Berman, a nationally renowned specialist in pediatric hematology and oncology who headed Beaumont’s pediatrics department. Berman, who was recruited from Cleveland’s nationally ranked Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital, was terminated after objecting to cutbacks that he said would imperil the hospital’s care of children. Berman also joined University Pediatricians, where he is director of physician network development.

Dr. Brian Berman

Berman, who was beloved by hospital staff and patients, was escorted out of Beaumont Royal Oak in front of his colleagues by hospital CEO Nancy Susick. Mark Shaevsky, a prominent Beaumont donor and former board member, referred to the firing incident without naming Berman or Susick in a letter to Attorney General Dana Nessel calling on her to fire Fox, COO Carolyn Wilson, and chief medical officer David Wood Jr. Berman didn't respond to a Deadline Detroit request for an interview. 

Beaumont under Fox’s watch also has seen an exodus of the majority of anesthesiologists with advanced pediatric fellowship training. The hospital network earlier this year eliminated its pediatric neurosurgery clinic, which catered heavily to minorities and economically disadvantaged families. Beaumont also imposed significant pay cuts on its pediatric specialists and required them to sign controversial noncompete agreements.

Beaumont's Different Version

Despite these developments, Beaumont spokesman Mark Geary insisted that all is well with Beaumont’s pediatrics department.

“We have recently made major recruitments in pediatrics over the past few years and our pediatric program has grown and continues to grow,” Geary said. “We follow all guidelines and procedures to deliver high-quality, safe care to our pediatric patients. Our pediatric trauma center continues to serve patients 24/7 as well.”

Geary’s statement is an example of Beaumont’s regular practice of issuing misleading comments. While Beaumont Royal Oak last year received certification as a pediatric trauma center, it was with the understanding the hospital would have a pediatric neurosurgeon available round the clock. It doesn’t and pediatric patients requiring emergency neurosurgery often have to be transfered elsewhere, squandering valuable time for critical treatment.

Geary didn’t respond when asked to provide examples of pediatric specialists being hired since Berman’s departure. 

Levasseur, 40, couldn’t be reached for comment. According to her Facebook profile and sources familiar with her background, Levasseur currently serves as chair of American Academy of Pediatrics’ subcommittee on emergency medicine quality improvement and mentored many Detroit area medical students, residents and fellows over the years. She is a graduate of Michigan State’s School of Osteopathic Medicine and also holds a master’s degree in health care administration.

Levasseur, who has an 11-year-old son and nine-year-old daughter, was featured in a WDIV segment last year on how caring for children in a major city hospital emergency room influences her parenting style. Among her beliefs is that children shouldn’t have cell phones or allowed access to social media until they are at least 12.

I would guess that another one of Levasseur’s beliefs is that Detroit-area parents no longer take their children to Beaumont. A source told me that Levasseur will be doing some shifts at the satellite branch of DMC’s Children’s Hospital facility on Big Beaver near the Somerset Mall in Troy, which also offers round the clock emergency pediatric care for Oakland and Macomb County residents.

Levasseur’s departure is the latest in an ongoing stream of prominent specialists, surgeons, and anesthesiologists who have exited Beaumont in recent months. Dozens of nurses also have quit. The departures stem from widespread dissatisfaction with Fox and his deputies; a recent survey of more than 1,500 doctors revealed that a majority have no confidence in him or his management team.

Beaumont’s implosion accelerated in May when Wilson awarded NorthStar Anesthesia, a Texas-based outsourcing firm, a contract to manage the anesthesiology services at Beaumont’s flagship Royal Oak hospital and six other facilities. That sparked the exodus of Beaumont’s longstanding anesthesiologists with advanced training in various specialties.

Beaumont’s entire team of liver transplant anesthesiology specialists have resigned, as have the majority of its cardiac anesthesiology specialists. The co-heads of the cardiology department at Beaumont’s flagship Royal Oak hospital recently sent a letter to John Lewis, who chair’s Beaumont Health’s corporate board, warning him they didn’t have confidence in NorthStar.

As part of its contract, NorthStar agreed to hire the Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) currently working at Beaumont’s northern Royal Oak, Troy, and Grosse Pointe hospitals. However, the CRNAs at these hospitals don’t like the contract terms offered to them and most of them have yet to sign on, despite NorthStar’s contract beginning January 1.

Fox recently was forced to call off his proposed merger with Chicago-based Advocate Aurora because of mounting pressure opposing the controversial deal. Under the terms of the transaction, Advocate Aurora would have gained control of Beaumont for free, while Fox and his top deputies likely would have netted lucrative golden parachute payments to go away after the merger was completed. Ironically, Advocate Aurora has a nationally ranked pediatrics practice.

Return to Atlanta?

John Fox and Carolyn Wilson

Fox was widely expected to return to his native Atlanta after the merger was completed, where he still owns a home and has a luxurious vacation property in North Carolina. Fox is trying to sell his iconic Albert Kahn-designed Bloomfield Hills estate for $2.7 million. He has been paid an estimated $20 million as Beaumont CEO since March 2015.

Fox and Wilson warned Beaumont doctors the company’s financials have been badly impaired this year, but sought to place some of the blame on bad publicity, which has led to a growing awareness of Beaumont’s compromised patient care issues, prompting patients to demand that their doctors treat them at other area hospitals or ambulatory centers.

Geary has refused to provide Deadline Detroit with a copy of Beaumont’s Community Report, assuming one exists. The report is supposed to outline all of the hospital network’s charitable activities that justify its nonprofit status and exemption from paying taxes. Geary won’t disclose the filing timing of Beaumont’s so-called 990 Report, which discloses the salaries of top executives and other critical details about the company’s financials. Beaumont’s 990 report for 2019 was due in July.

It’s a wonder that Fox and his deputies remain in place, given Beaumont’s escalating decline and his disregard and disrespect for the hospital network's 38,000 employees with strong ties to Michigan. 

“I am not going anywhere,” Fox said on a recent call with reporters. “Fortunately, I have a lot of support from the board.”

Reach Eric Starkman at Beaumont employees and vendors are encouraged to reach out, with confidentiality assured. Also, if you wish to support Deadline Detroit's independent journalism please sign up for a $3 a month membership or give a one-time donation.

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