MANCHESTER, N.H.-The commissioner of the state Department of Health and Human Services said he is dismayed by the state hospital planning board's decision earlier this month to double the number of advanced heart surgery units in New Hampshire. "Clearly what happened this week is an indication that whatever it's supposed to be doing, it isn't doing right," Commissioner Terry Morton said of the Certificate of Need Board. The board approved applications by Concord (N.H.) Hospital and Columbia Portsmouth (N.H.) Regional Hospital to open advanced heart surgery units. Optima Healthcare, which runs the largest advanced cardiac-care unit, the New England Heart Institute at Catholic Medical Center in Manchester, opposed the new units. Edward Palank, M.D., executive medical director of the heart institute, said he was "dismayed" by the board's decision. "There clearly is no need . . . and the board did not address need," Palank said. "The focus got lost to convenience." But William Schuler, president of Portsmouth Regional, said Optima wanted to be the hospital's partner in developing a heart surgery unit and only objected after the hospital chose Lahey Hitchcock Clinic of Burlington, Mass., instead. Optima officials could not be reached to respond to Schuler's statement. Schuler and Michael Green, president of Concord Hospital, said there is a need for additional heart surgery units. "People can be better served when they can be served as locally as possible" by physicians they see regularly and trust, Green said. Schuler said arguments that surgeons at the new units won't be able to perform as well as those at already established centers are false, considering that surgeons learn about new technologies, drug treatments and procedures all the time. Morton echoed Optima's arguments at a healthcare panel sponsored by the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce. Although he said he could see more of a need for a unit in Portsmouth, he objected to the board's process. He said the board's decision creates quality, cost and revenue problems, and will cut into Optima's ability to provide services to poor people. Officials at Optima Health and Maine Medical Center in Portland, which also objected to the proposal, have not yet decided whether to appeal the board's decision.
BURLINGTON, Mass.-The Massachusetts Hospital Association has elected Peter Levine, M.D., president and chief executive officer of Memorial Health Care in Worcester, as the new chairman of the MHA board. Other new officers elected for the coming year include William Lane, president and CEO of Holy Family Hospital and Medical Center in Methuen, as chairman-elect; Jeffrey Otten, president of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, as treasurer; and Craig Melin, president and CEO of Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton, as secretary.