In yet another shake-up at New York's embattled Mount Sinai Medical Center, Kenneth Berns stepped down as president and chief executive officer after just one year on the job.
Meanwhile, Kenneth Davis, 56, dean of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, assumed the new and cumbersome title of president and CEO of the Mount Sinai Medical Center, CEO of the 964-bed Mount Sinai Hospital and dean of the school of medicine.
Officials said the reshuffling was part of an ongoing restructuring effort since Mount Sinai's plagued 1998 merger with NYU Hospital Center. Now that the merger has nearly unraveled from an operational standpoint, Mount Sinai wants to restore itself to its former role as "a unified entity-an academic medical center comprised of the hospital and school of medicine under single leadership," said Mel Granick, a hospital spokesman.
Coming on the heels of Ralph Snyderman's announcement that he will resign from Duke University Health System in June 2004, Berns' departure marks the second high-profile physician executive in recent weeks to leave a prominent academic medical center amidst controversy (March 10, p. 14). But Granick stressed that the shake-up was "not any reflection of any kind of dissatisfaction with Dr. Berns' performance." Berns, 64, a microbiologist, will return full time to his scientific pursuits in the field of genetics at Mount Sinai.
Berns was hired away from the University of Florida in Gainesville in February 2002 to replace John Rowe, the architect of the ill-advised merger that created Mount Sinai NYU Health. The system has been steadily decentralizing ever since the merger, and changing titles and leadership to reflect that. Last September, Barry Freedman was summarily removed as president of Mount Sinai Hospital after 25 years with the organization. He was succeeded by Larry Hollier, the hospital's senior vice president of medical affairs. Officials said at the time that the reorganization was being done "to anchor the hospital's future as a physician-led organization."
Adding to the turmoil in leadership, Mount Sinai officials also said last week that as part of an ongoing turnaround plan with the Hunter Group, up to 500 positions from its staff of more than 11,000 would be eliminated in the next few weeks. The positions will be almost exclusively in nonpatient-care areas, Granick said. Last year, the hospital slashed 450 jobs from its payroll on the recommendation of the Hunter Group. Volumes are down and the reduction marks an effort to be sure "the workforce is in proper proportion to the volume we are handling," Granick said. Granick did not know the extent of the deficit this year, but in 2001, the hospital suffered an operating loss of $69 million on $918 million in revenue.
Controversy also has swirled around Mount Sinai on the clinical side. One year ago the New York State Department of Health slapped the hospital with a $48,000 fine for deficiencies in the post-operative care for a liver donor who died.