Stephen J. Hegarty, president of the Massachusetts Hospital Association, died last week at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston after a long battle with cancer.
Hegarty, 47, led the 117-member hospital association since 1986. He recently stepped down as president because of his illness (Aug. 21, p. 38). During his tenure, Hegarty frequently testified on behalf of hospitals in Boston's Statehouse and on Capitol Hill. Under his leadership, hospitals adapted to a deregulated system of reimbursement.
"Massachusetts has lost an outstanding citizen, and its healthcare community (has lost) a passionate advocate of enormous intellect and skill," said Richard Davidson, president of the American Hospital Association. "But his legacy is national as well, for he confronted issues and problems common to hospitals and health systems everywhere and helped all of us do better for patients and communities."
According to the MHA, Hegarty learned of his cancer diagnosis more than two years ago. In a May 12 opinion piece in the Boston Globe, he spoke out about the need to restore public trust in medicine.
"Our healthcare system is far from perfect," he wrote. "Yet my own experience tells me that with great candor, public accountability and forgiveness, we can still find hope and trust in medicine that relies on the best science and places the highest value on the needs and interests of the patient."
Hegarty's comments followed a series of high-profile patient-care deaths, most notably that of Betsy A. Lehman, a health columnist for the Boston Globe, who received a massive chemotherapy over- dose at Boston's Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
A certified pub-lic accountant by training, Hegarty served the MHA in various senior-level positions before becoming president. Prior to joining the MHA, he was an independent financial consultant and also served as director of health regulations for the Internal Revenue Service in Boston.