Former Detroit Medical Center President and CEO Arthur Porter is heading north of the border for his next assignment, heading the McGill University Health Centre in Montreal.
Porter, 47, left DMC after securing a $50 million government bailout for the troubled system and leading city, county and state legislators in forming a public health financing authority to wrestle with the Detroit area's growing uninsured population.
The moves came at the end of a tumultuous reign in Detroit. Turnaround experts from the Hunter Group appointed him to the DMC management team in 1998, from the medical staff, and he was named president and CEO the following year. Porter led the financially struggling inner-city system through massive changes until his resignation became effective in the fall of 2003.
Shortly after Porter became president, he slashed 4,000 jobs, sold the system's physician practices and outsourced information systems. At first he succeeded in cutting the system's annual losses. However, with an annual uncompensated-care load of $130 million in 2002 and high numbers of local uninsured, DMC-a de facto public hospital without public financing-continued to bleed red ink. The system recorded an $80 million loss on $1.6 billion in 2002 revenue and lost nearly $500 million during the past six years. Last year, Porter threatened to close two of the system's struggling inner-city hospitals and lay off 1,000 employees unless government authorities footed their share of charity-care costs.
"Dr. Porter brings a unique blend of medical practice, management and business acumen to his new assignment," says McGill health center Chairman David Culver. "We are confident that he has the skills, vision and background required to lead the MUHC in the years ahead."
The five-hospital system is smaller than the DMC, with annual revenue equaling about $403 million compared with DMC's $1.6 billion. But the numbers of staff physicians and employees are similar.
"I have tremendous respect for the university and its hospitals," Porter says. "It is not only one of North America's great learning centers, but one of the world's most venerable academic medical centers."
Porter says McGill is at a crossroads in its history. "McGill is developing a new `super hospital' (scheduled to open in 2010) consolidating many of the system's services and is building healthcare networks similar to those in the U.S. "They're on the cusp of great changes, and I saw there weren't many opportunities like this in Canada or the United States."
Porter is no stranger to Canadian healthcare. He previously served as chief resident in radiation oncology at the Cross Cancer Institute in Edmonton, Alberta; on the faculty of the medical school at the University of Alberta, Edmonton; and as chairman of the department of oncology at Victoria Hospital Corp., London, Ontario.
There will be some fine-tuning of his skills, however. He says adapting to the Canadian public-financed healthcare system will require a small adjustment. "In both cases we deal with mission and access to care. In Detroit we tackled a large unfunded mandate to care for the poor and uninsured," he says. "In Canada that philosophy of care is an official mandate and is funded, although like most organizations never enough."
Porter, a Cambridge (England) School of Clinical Medicine-educated native of Sierra Leone, also will undergo an immersion course in French before taking over as McGill's CEO on April 5.