Starkman: Beaumont Health Chair John Lewis -- Champion of CEO John Fox -- Stepping Down in June

May 07, 2021, 12:27 AM

The columnist, a Los Angeles freelancer, is a former Detroit News business reporter who blogs at Starkman Approved

By Eric Starkman

John Lewis, chair of Beaumont Health’s board of directors and the person most responsible for keeping controversial CEO John Fox in place, will vacate his chairmanship next month and will retire from the board at the end of the year.

Lewis will leave behind a battered hospital system besieged by disgruntled and demoralized medical staff and serious patient safety issues.  

I’m confident in saying that news of Lewis’s departure, disclosed in a communique Thursday afternoon, delighted most of the medical staff at Beaumont’s flagship Royal Oak hospital and that few will feel even a tinge of gratitude for his service. It’s well known that Lewis is a staunch Fox loyalist and that about half the board members who wanted Fox axed were afraid to confront him. 

Beaumont Chair John Lewis

Replacing Lewis as chairman will be Julie Fream, who is president and CEO of the Original Equipment Suppliers Association and holds a chemical engineering degree from Michigan Tech and an MBA from Harvard. According to the communique, Fream has served as Beaumont’s vice chair since 2018.

Christopher Blake, president of a construction and design company in Grosse Pointe Farms that bears his name, will replace Fream as vice chair. He holds an accounting degree from Georgetown.

Lewis, a retired Comerica executive when it was based in Detroit, and Fream and Blake were among the founding board members when the Beaumont, Oakwood, and Botsford Health systems merged in 2014. The Beaumont communique said the board changes are a “normal governance leadership rotational process.”

Implosion Under Lewis

Beaumont’s flagship Royal Oak hospital has imploded under Lewis’ oversight with the exodus of more than a dozen surgeons, half the anesthesiology staff, about 100 physicians and nurse anesthetists, and countless nurses.

Julie Fream

A survey of Beaumont doctors across the entire network last year revealed that a majority of them had no confidence in Fox, COO Carolyn Wilson, and Chief Medical Officer David Wood Jr. According to a local report, Lewis received so many complaints about Fox that he let it be known he wouldn’t read them anymore.

One of those complaints was from the co-heads of Beaumont’s cardiology department warning they had “serious concerns” about NorthStar Anesthesia, which took over Royal Oak’s anesthesiology functions January 1. Within three weeks of NorthStar taking over, a patient undergoing a routine colonoscopy died from intubation complications and another landed in the ICU for several days because of a pain medication overdose.

It’s not clear whether Fream and Blake are among the board members loyal to Fox. That said, Fream’s name was included in a Beaumont statement denying that Lewis had said he wouldn’t read complaints about Fox.

In a post on her LinkedIn page, Fream said she was “honored and humbled” to be named Beaumont’s next chair and called Beaumont “a true gem in our community.”

Beaumont CEO John Fox

In the communique to staff, Fox was quoted as saying, "I’m confident Julie will be an effective and compassionate leader for Beaumont’s Board.”

If that's true, Fream's first official act will be to fire Fox, Wilson and Wood and other management cronies.  

Beaumont hospitals received mixed quality ratings released earlier this month by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which determine reimbursement rates. Only Beaumont Troy received a perfect five-star rating. Beaumont Royal Oak and Beaumont Grosse Pointe received four stars,  Beaumont Dearborn received three stars, and Beaumont Taylor and Wayne received two stars.

In addition to Beaumont Troy, the only other southeastern Michigan hospitals to receive CMS five stars were the University of Michigan's teaching hospital, and the Saint Joseph hospitals in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti. 

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

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