Starkman: Corewell Bids An Abrupt Farewell to Hotshot NY Doc it Lured to Run Beaumont

August 21, 2023, 7:23 PM

The writer, a Los Angeles freelancer and former Detroit News business reporter, blogs at

By Eric Starkman

Dr. Benjamin Schwartz

Well, that didn’t last long!

Thirteen months after luring him with great fanfare, Dr. Benjamin Schwartz is no longer running Metro Detroit’s biggest hospital system formerly known as Beaumont. The two have abruptly parted ways.

In a note to employees, Corewell Health CEO Tina Freese Decker said the divorce was a “mutual decision.”

Corewell is the name of the merged operations of Grand Rapids-based Spectrum Health and Southfield-based Beaumont Health. Spectrum and Beaumont deceived southeastern Michigan residents that the merged operations would have dual headquarters, but the combined operations are run out of Grand Rapids.

Not one member of Beaumont’s former executive team remains, and sources tell me that Corewell’s Metro Detroit operations are treated as the rump of the hospital system’s western Michigan operations, where Freese Decker is based.

The most senior remaining executive from the Fox regime is Nancy Susick, who is chief operating officer for acute and post-acute services at Corewell’s Metro Detroit hospitals. Susick, formerly president of Beaumont Royal Oak, is best remembered by many staffers for having fired Beaumont’s former head of pediatrics after he protested that budget cuts would harm patient care. Susick escorted the widely admired and respected pediatrician from the hospital in view of his horrified staff.

Hiring Schwartz was but another example of Freese Decker’s insincerity. When Spectrum announced its Beaumont takeover, it trumpeted that both institutions were Michigan-based and implied the combined operations would be run by Michiganders.

“For Michigan, By Michigan,” was the company’s trademarked tag line (as if someone would want to steal it.)

Here’s what Spectrum said in its June 8 announcement last year about Schwartz.

“In the search for the new president of BHSH Beaumont Health, we were looking for a leader with the proven ability to drive excellence, a strong developer of teams and culture, a dynamic communicator, and a strategic and systems thinker. Dr. Schwartz exemplifies these qualities,” Freese Decker said. “He is a visionary health care leader with a passion for taking health care into the future. He is also committed to fostering and inspiring a vibrant culture for our team at BHSH Beaumont Health, and for leading this team toward our bold vision.” 

Schwartz has very impressive credentials and on paper can’t be dismissed as an empty suit. He was formerly senior vice president and regional physician executive of Northwell Health, New York’s biggest hospital system with 23 hospitals and more than 79,000 employees.

Schwartz earned his medical degree from George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, and according to Spectrum’s news release announcing his appointment, he was named a New York “Top Doctor” in gynecologic oncology for six consecutive years. He’s also board certified in obstetrics and gynecology.

Schwartz also has masters in healthcare management from Harvard. By comparison, Freese Decker has masters degrees in health administration and industrial engineering from the University of Iowa but she has no medical credentials.

Tina Freese Decker

From what I’ve heard, Schwartz was well liked, although one consistently reliable source questioned how much authority he really had. My understanding is that Schwartz lived in a rented Birmingham condo, although multiple sources told me he bought property around Traverse City.

I’d welcome knowing how much money Corewell spent on Schwartz’s separation agreement, and the headhunter costs to replace him. My guess is it would be enough to hire legions of top-flight physicians and nurses.

Freese Decker said Dr. Darryl Elmouchi, Corewell’s system chief operating officer, will serve as interim president of the company’s southeastern Michigan operations and will be “temporarily based” in the region.

Freese Decker ranks among the most insincere CEOs I’ve come across. Freese Decker invoked the name of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in a memo last year while disclosing that she was firing 400 employees. King was a staunch labor and union supporter. Adding insult to injury, when Spectrum announced its acquisition of Beaumont, the company promised there would be no layoffs.

A Grand Rapids business source told me that when he encountered Freese Decker at a local reception, she worked the room like a politician. That’s how one gets to be a CEO.

Corewell eliminated the COO positions of its Metro Detroit hospitals, including Mark Leonard, a 25-year veteran of Beaumont Troy.  Beaumont Troy in recent years ranked as the best hospital in the Beaumont system, and insiders say Leonard played a major role in that achievement

Ex-Beaumont CEO John Fox headed for the door on Friday

“We wouldn’t have made it through the pandemic without Mark,” a source told me. The medical source said they’d prefer the leadership of former Beaumont CEO John Fox than the current Corewell regime, which is telling given that Fox and his management team overwhelmingly lacked the trust and confidence of Beaumont’s doctors and other health professionals.  

Beaumont went into an irreversible decline when Fox’s deputy Carolyn Wilson opted to hire outsourcing firm Texas-based NorthStar Anesthesia to take over the hospital system’s anesthesia functions. The decision resulted in the departures of legions of surgeons and anesthesiologists because of NorthStar’s poor reputation in the industry. Within three weeks of NorthStar taking over at Beaumont’s flagship hospital in Royal Oak, a patient died undergoing a routine colonoscopy.

Corewell informed employees in June that NorthStar would cease providing anesthesia and pain medication services for its southeastern Michigan hospitals beginning in January. NorthStar is controlled by The Cranemere Group, whose previous CEO Jeffrey Zients is President Biden’s chief of staff.

Fox, Beaumont’s former CEO, pocketed tens of millions of dollars running the once nationally respected hospital system into the ground. Fox has returned to his native Atlanta where he is clearly enjoying the good life. He and his spouse were recently featured on the Magnolia network caring for the chickens they are raising in their backyard.

The infamous John Fox guarding a chicken coop. I feel sorry for the chickens.

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