Chicago hospital CEO accused of blurring political, healthcare responsibilities

The CEO of a nonprofit hospital in Chicago is facing backlash after appearing in a political campaign commercial, according to a Dec. 15 article from ProPublica and PBS affiliate WTTW. 

Tim Egan has served Roseland Community Hospital — which recently came under scrutiny for a string of medical errors and neglect cases — for more than 9 years, according to his LinkedIn profile. He joined the hospital as its president and chief restructuring officer in July 2013 and became CEO in 2014. Prior to joining Roseland, Mr. Egan spent 11 years in a variety of leadership roles at Chicago-based Norwegian American Hospital, now named Humboldt Park Health. 

Mr. Egan was involved in local politics before he joined Roseland Community Hospital, according to ProPublica and WTTW. He ran for alderman in 2007 and 2011 and has led the Cook County Democratic Party's 2nd Ward committee since 2016. 

Prior to the November elections, Mr. Egan appeared in a campaign reelection commercial for Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza. Ms. Mendoza is the state's chief financial officer and is responsible for reimbursing safety-net hospitals, like Roseland, for patients on Medicaid and Medicare. 

"Susana is a giant for saving the New Roseland Community Hospital," Mr. Egan said in the commercial, which identifies him as the hospital's president and CEO. 

Mr. Egan's appearance in the commercial has drawn a mixed bag of opinions. 

The commercial "probably pushed the boundary, if not crossed it," but having a political operator leading the system might be beneficial given "unprecedented financial pressure," James Orlikoff, a Chicago-based adviser on governance and leadership issues for the American Hospital Association, told ProPublica and WTTW

Rupert Evans, chair of the hospital's board of directors, told the publications that Mr. Egan's political activities have been fully disclosed and do not cause any conflict of interests. 

However, Samuel Brunson, a professor and associate dean at Loyola University Chicago, said the commercial looks like a "pretty flagrant violation" of an IRS rule that prohibits nonprofits from participating in political campaigns. The Treasury Department declined the publications' request for comment. 

ProPublica and WTTW pointed to other actions from Mr. Egan that appeared to mingle political interests with the hospital's — holding a "healthcare heroes reception in support of Susana Mendoza" which sold tickets up to $5,000, signing a contract with American Medical Lab which later donated $5,000 to one of Mr. Egan's political funds and chairing political funds which have received nearly $100,000 in donations from people associated with his former and present hospitals. 

Enrique Lopez and his accounting firm — both have given more than $7,000 to Mr. Egan's various political funds, one of which has Mr. Lopez as treasurer — prepares the hospital's tax returns and audits its financial statements, according to the publications. 

Mr. Lopez's and Mr. Egan's political relationship could pose a problem for the hospital, Angel Chatterton, a senior accounting instructor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, told ProPublica and WTTW

"Auditors not only need to be objective, they need to be perceived as objective as well," Chatterton said. "That’s at the heart of the credibility of our profession."

A spokesperson for Mr. Egan told the publication Mr. Lopez's firm was brought in after the hospital had not performed an audit or filed some key documents for close to 20 years.

Mr. Egan told Becker's the hospital recently earned a major transformation grant from the state, which will allow the hospital to continue improving care access and quality. 

Mr. Egan did not directly respond to ProPublica's and WTTW's allegations. "As their story noted, I keep our board of directors apprised of all our initiatives, including our efforts to garner support from elected officials and the community for getting the resources we need to meet our critical mission," he told Becker's.

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