Starkman: How Absurd. Newsweek Ranks 3 Beaumont Hospitals Among Best in U.S.

March 03, 2021, 8:30 PM

The columnist, a Los Angeles freelancer, is a former Detroit News business reporter who blogs at Starkman Approved

By Eric Starkman

Newsweek Editor Nancy Cooper

Presumably Nancy Cooper, the global editor in chief of Newsweek, is willing to eat the journalism her publication cooks up, so I’m issuing this double dare to her: Undergo a colonoscopy at Beaumont Health’s flagship Royal Oak hospital and insist on being intubated.

The intubation must be administered by one of the visiting temps the controversial outsourcing firm NorthStar Anesthesia has traipsing through the hospital.

Newsweek, a failing publication whose former co-owner recently pleaded guilty to fraud and money-laundering charges, just named Beaumont Royal Oak, Grosse Pointe, and Troy among America’s most prestigious hospitals in 2021. Royal Oak ranked 129, Grosse Pointe 154, and Troy 172.

I kid you not.

Cooper and Statista, “the respected global data research firm” Newsweek relied on to compile the rankings, obviously doesn't do much due diligence. Beaumont is a mere shadow of its former greatness as a nationally respected institution.

Just like Newsweek.

Missing the Mark

Cooper and her staff obviously don't read Deadline Detroit. If they did, they’d know that more than a dozen prominent surgeons bolted from Beaumont last year after COO Carolyn Wilson had the brilliant idea to outsource anesthesia services at Royal Oak, Grosse Pointe, and Troy to low-cost outsourcing provider NorthStar. That triggered the resignations of about half of the anesthesiologists who worked at the hospitals, the majority of them with advanced fellowship training and certifications. More than 50 nurse anesthetists got the heck out, as did countless registered nurses.

The co-heads of Royal Oak’s cardiology department warned they had “serious concerns” about NorthStar’s capabilities, but apparently Beaumont’s retired bank board chairman John Lewis thought they were just being melodramatic.

Unfortunately, they weren’t.

Within three weeks of NorthStar taking over, a patient undergoing a routine colonoscopy at Royal Oak died from complications from an intubation gone awry. Medical experts question why the patient was intubated in the first place. Another patient wound up in the ICU after being given an overdose of pain medication that a visiting nurse anesthetist didn’t catch.

Nurse anesthetists at Beaumont Royal Oak, Grosse Pointe and Troy say NorthStar’s arrival has put patients at risk and are trying to form a union to remedy the situation. Beaumont’s best surgeons whenever possible schedule their procedures at other hospitals and local  ambulatory centers. Patients in the know demand that.

An experienced podiatrist who underwent a colonoscopy at Beaumont publicly warned to “avoid the hospital like the plague.” That's not much of an endorsement. 

Beaumont spokesman Mark Geary likes to live dangerously. Despite all that’s known about his hospital company’s implosion, he issued a news release touting Beaumont's Newsweek rankings.

Crowed CEO John Fox: “We are very proud of the incredible high-quality, compassionate and extraordinary care delivered at all of our hospitals every day. I commend the teams at Grosse Pointe, Royal Oak and Troy for receiving this wonderful national recognition for the work they do.”

Fox of course neglected to mention a survey last year revealing that the doctors delivering the “incredible” care overwhelming have no confidence in him or his management team.

Geary in his release conventiently left out a key detail about the Newsweek rankings – they are based on data ranging from 2015 to 2018. During this period Beaumont was actually one of the best hospitals in the country.

Beaumont's Mark Geary

Shout to the Good Ones

As long as Geary has called attention to Newsweek’s rankings, allow me to give a shoutout to the good folks at Michigan Medicine, St. Joseph’s Mercy Chelsea in suburban Ann Arbor, and Henry Ford Health System, which respectively ranked 8, 66 and 110 on the survey.

It’s possibly the first time that Henry Ford has ranked as better than Beaumont Royal Oak, giving at least some validity to Newsweek's rankings. Pretty darn impressive that Washtenaw County supports two world-class hospitals, not to mention the best frickin’ deli in the country. (Apologies, I was hungry when I wrote this.)

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If I had Geary's job -- a PR predicament I wouldn’t wish on anyone -- I’d tweak Beaumont’s billboards around town assuring area residents “It’s Safe” to visit its hospitals with a more encouraging message like: “Newsweek Is Still Alive. So Are MOST Beaumont Patients.”

One has to pay Newsweek a “licensing” fee to advertise the publication’s findings, but Beaumont likes bought-and-paid-for journalism. Geary might consider “sponsoring” another Crain’s Detroit Business podcast and have Fox field more softball questions from publisher Mary Kramer. Crain’s still hasn’t reported on the colonoscopy tragedy.


As for Newsweek, ranking Beaumont as one of the most prestigious hospitals in the country is just the publication's latest piece of rubbish. 

In 2019, Newsweek published a report saying President Trump spent Thanksgiving tweeting and golfing when he in fact was visiting troops in Afghanistan. It has published a slew of conspiracy commentaries, including one that maintained Kamala Harris wasn’t eligible to become vice president because her parents were immigrants. The New Republic last summer declared Newsweek a “Zombie Magazine.”

So, here’s my challenge to editor Cooper to make some real news. In the spirit of Katie Couric’s live colonoscopy broadcast, ask Geary to arrange a colonoscopy at Beaumont Royal Oak with a couple of NorthStar anesthesiologists and nurse anesthetists temps passing through town. Live dangerously and ask for some lidocaine pain medication to be administered.

Great, if you live to tell about the experience. I’m confident Beaumont will pay a small fortune for reprints of the article.

It will be the best story written about Beaumont in quite some time.

Reach Eric Starkman at:"> Beaumont employees and vendors are encouraged to reach out, with confidentiality assured.

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