In face of negative ad campaign, Fatima executives say promises kept

In face of negative ad campaign, Fatima executives say promises kept

John Holiver and David Kobis in front of the future “medical mall” at Our Lady of Fatima Hospital in North Providence. (Breeze photos by Ethan Shorey)

NORTH PROVIDENCE – Representatives for Our Lady of Fatima Hospital’s parent company, Prospect CharterCARE, say they’ve done everything they said they would, and more, since taking over the hospital in 2014.

David Kobis, president of Fatima Hospital, and John Holiver, CEO of CharterCARE Health Partners, said during an interview with The Breeze that the for-profit company is adding jobs and investing in facilities, as was promised when Prospect Medical Holdings purchased CharterCARE Health Partners three years ago.

The statements from the two executives stand in stark contrast to an ongoing ad campaign from the nurses at the hospital, who say Prospect has proven to be only about the bottom line as they’ve completed four rounds of layoffs.

Chris Callaci, legal counsel to Local 5110 of the United Nurses and Allied Professionals, said the subject matter of the ads is accurate, that executives from Prospect “are not corporate citizens,” laying off between 75 and 100 employees over four rounds. He said hospital executives give “new meaning to the concept of for-profit medicine,” putting “profits before well-being of patients and people in their communities.”

Callaci said the union will continue to pound their points home “publicly, relentlessly, forever, if need be.”

Holiver said he’s been “taken aback by the negative” campaign from the nurses union, saying his experience over 40 years in the field has been that relations typically improve after a contract agreement is signed. He said he’s surprised union representatives would continue to claim that the services their own members are responsible for have diminished, something that simply isn’t true.

“We have the best nurses in the state,” he said.

Holiver insisted that CharterCARE has seen a “net increase” in Rhode Island jobs since Prospect took over. Though he couldn’t say exactly which jobs have disappeared, he said the company is constantly going through what’s called a “rebalancing of the institution,” shifting the types of employees based on market conditions. Prospect is showing the way as perhaps the only profitable hospital institution in Rhode Island right now, said Kobis.

Prospect has “never taken people away from the bedside,” said Holiver, but instead has focused on “efficiencies between the two hospitals,” Fatima in North Providence and Roger Williams Medical Center in Providence, including changes to the marketing and public relations departments, finance, human resources and other departments. Where “synergy” can be found, the hospitals find it, he said. Making those changes has allowed the hospital group to continue to give raises and invest in overall operations, said Holiver.

CharterCARE was in a “tough way” when Prospect came in, said Holiver, and executives were committed from the beginning to revamping operations to be more efficient at Fatima, sister hospital Roger Williams, and other facilities.

Kobis said the company is on track with its four-year capital plan to invest some $90 million in the two facilities and boost salaries for employees. The hospitals have plenty of new equipment, including MRI machines, CT machines, surgical equipment, as well as expanded programs and services, he said.

The emergency room at Roger Williams is undergoing a $15.5 million upgrade, while the Fatima ER will get $3 million to $5 million in improvements, said Holiver. Wait times are down dramatically, to between 15 and 17 minutes, putting the hospitals near the top of the state.

Prospect CharterCARE is small enough where it can be “nimble” on decisions that improve operations, said Holiver. Decisions can be made in the morning and be in place by noon, he said.

Kobis and Holiver said Prospect CharterCARE is now a “profitable, thriving entity,” with a focus on patients and “aggressive customer service.” Coming from the hospitality industry, Holiver said he understands what makes an environment where people feel at home. At Fatima, patients will find cleaner facilities, lights that aren’t burned out, and a welcoming atmosphere. It’s almost like being treated “at a small boutique service,” Holiver said.

Fatima and other facilities are “hitting on all cylinders,” said Holiver, as the company reinvests in “people, plant, and technology.”

After completing numerous improvements at Fatima, including a new entrance and new central registration department, Kobis and Holiver say, executives are planning development of a sort of “medical mall” near the emergency room.

The former ambulatory surgery center will have testing and diagnostic services, “like retail space” for medical services, with easy access and quick service. The mall will include wound care and physician services, among other features.

Prospect CharterCARE isn’t going anywhere, said Kobis and Holiver, and will still be here 10 or 20 years from now. Acquisitions like the May 1 purchase of Blackstone Valley Surgicare in Johnston, Rhode Island’s largest freestanding ambulatory surgery center, play into the company’s strategy of creating more jobs in Rhode Island and expanding quality services, he said. That company has 50 employees.

Ray Sullivan, spokesman for the nurses’ union, said union members did their part when executives came to them and asked them to lobby for “several million dollars” in tax stabilization agreements with Providence and North Providence, but the company has fallen short on its promises during those meetings of creating “sustainable health care jobs,” he said.

One of the biggest points of criticism in the ads from the union is on Prospect CharterCARE’s decision to sell Elmhurst Extended Care in Providence last year, said Sullivan.

The company originally agreed to maintain services there for five years, through 2019, and selling the facility to another company with no promises of maintaining services violated that pact, he said.