3 executives leave Baylor St. Luke's; CHI Texas Division CEO to take the helm

Englewood, Colo.-based Catholic Health Initiatives and Houston-based Baylor College of Medicine are restructuring the leadership team at Baylor St. Luke's Medical Center in Houston, following the departure of three executives.

Baylor St. Luke's President Gay Nord, Chief Nursing Officer Jennifer Nitschmann, MSN, RN, and Senior Vice President of Operations David Berger, MD, have left their roles.

T. Douglas Lawson, PhD, will become the hospital's president. Mr. Lawson will continue serving as CEO of the CHI Texas Division, which includes Baylor St. Luke's as well as 15 other hospitals. He has served as CHI Texas Division CEO since March 2018, prior to which he was president of Dallas-based Baylor Scott & White Health's North Texas Central Region and Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas.

Marc Shapiro, chairman of the hospital's board of directors said in a statement that the hospital faced "significant challenges" and the board felt that "aggressive action is needed to address them."

In June 2018, an investigation by ProPublica and the Houston Chronicle brought to light that the hospital's heart transplant survival rate ranks near the bottom nationally, and three of nine patients who received heart transplants at the hospital during the first half of 2018 had died. The hospital suspended its heart transplant program for 14 days starting June 1, 2018, after the investigation was published.

CMS halted funding for the hospital's heart transplant program Aug. 17, 2018. The hospital appealed the decision in September.

More recently, CMS initiated a review of a patient death that occurred following a blood transfusion at the hospital. The patient received the wrong type of blood.

"CMS's review raises concerns that are simply unacceptable to the board or the hospital's owners, CHI and the Baylor College of Medicine," Mr. Shapiro said. "As trustees for a significant public trust, it is important for the board to ensure that Baylor St. Luke's has the leadership and resources it needs to meet the challenges of today's incredibly complex healthcare environment."

Mr. Lawson said in a statement that the hospital is developing a 90-day plan "that will include new initiatives in the areas of clinical excellence, patient experience and workplace culture."

"We have the highest expectations of Baylor St. Luke’s. The greater Houston community and beyond look to us for the highest standard of patient care and compassion, and we will live up to that expectation," he said.

Editor's note: This article was updated at 2:21 p.m. on Jan. 18, 2019, to include information about the most recent CMS review at the hospital.

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