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Starkman: Corewell’s Management Shakeup Includes Demotion of Die-Hard John Fox Loyalist

October 20, 2023, 4:52 PM

The writer, a Los Angeles freelancer and former Detroit News business reporter. He blogs at StarkmanApproved.com

By Eric Starkman


Dr. Darryl Elmouchi

I’m dubbing Dr. Darryl Elmouchi, the interim Corewell Health executive from Grand Rapids responsible for mitigating the widespread problems of Metro Detroit’s biggest hospital system, “The Karma Dispenser.”

Elmouchi this week announced a management shakeup that included the demotion of Nancy Susick, most recently COO of acute and post-acute care for Corewell East, which comprises the network of eight hospitals formerly known as Beaumont Health. Susick, who under Beaumont’s controversial CEO John Fox was president of the flagship Royal Oak hospital, was named President of Corewell’s troubled Troy hospital, a job she previously held years ago.

Elmouchi also disclosed the departure of Tim Lyons, who joined Corewell earlier this year as president of the company’s Grosse Pointe hospital.

Susick and Lyons were involved in some controversial actions that riled current and past Corewell healthcare employees and contractors.

Susick was a die-hard Fox loyalist who unceremoniously fired Brian Berman, Beaumont’s beloved, and widely respected former head of pediatrics, after he protested budget cuts that he warned would impair the quality of patient care. Susick escorted Berman from the building in front of his staff, an act many found distasteful and regarded as one of the low points of Fox’s controversial leadership.

Shortly after Berman’s termination, Kelly Levasseur, who developed Beaumont’s accredited pediatric emergency medicine fellowship and was Beaumont Royal Oak’s medical director for pediatric emergency medicine, resigned.

Corewell is the name for the combined operations of Grand Rapids-based Spectrum Health, which took control of Beaumont’s troubled operations last year. Fox and his remaining senior managers promptly departed, and Susick briefly served as interim chief of the former Beaumont operations.

Firing of Dr. Berman

It’s likely Elmouchi isn’t aware of Susick’s firing of Berman for protesting budget cuts, but it’s my hope that his spouse, Sarah, wouldn’t approve. She is a well credentialed pediatrician in Grand Rapids with undergraduate and medical degrees from University of Michigan who did her pediatric and chief residencies at the University of California, San Francisco.

According to Susick’s bio, she joined Beaumont as a registered nurse in 1986, where she held various administrative positions at the Troy and Royal Oak hospitals. Susick’s willingness to dutifully follow orders possibly stems from her military service. She retired with the rank of Captain from the United States Navy Reserve in 2012 after 24 years of service, having held multiple leadership positions, including Commanding Officer and Executive and Training Officer and received numerous military awards.

A source who worked at Beaumont Troy when Susick was in charge remembered her fondly, saying she was a champion of the medical staff and very responsive to their needs.

Susick replaces Thomas Lanni, Jr. who was previously president of Corewell’s Grosse Point hospital but was transferred to oversee Corewell’s Troy hospital earlier this year. A Troy hospital source a few weeks ago told me that Lanni was widely considered as ineffective. Corewell a few months ago forced out Troy COO Mark Leonard, who was so highly regarded employees broke out crying upon hearing the news.

Lyons, formerly chief medical officer of a California hospital in the Napa Valley region, was hired with great fanfare by Dr. Benjamin Schwartz, a hotshot doctor from New York who recruited Lyons to run Corewell’s Grosse Point hospital. Schwartz departed in August after only 13 months on the job.

Schwartz wanted to bring Corewell’s anesthesia staff in-house and terminate the hospital’s relationship with Texas-based NorthStar Anesthesia, which took over the anesthesiology functions at most of Corewell’s southeastern Michigan hospitals. Lyon was responsible for overseeing the transition, but he alienated the some 200 NorthStar nurse anesthetists who serve the Royal Oak, Troy, and Grosse Pointe hospitals with repeated threats they would lose their jobs and seniority if they refused to sign contracts to work directly for Corewell. None of them did.

“He’s a bully,” one nurse anesthetist said of Lyons.  

Corewell has renewed its contract with NorthStar, after the outsourcing company gave notice it didn’t wish to continue when its three-year contract ended in December.

Brian Brasser, Corewell’s senior vice president of integrations and enterprise portfolio management, has been named to succeed Susick on an interim basis. The interim appointment speaks to the management drain and costly expenses that are incurring because of Spectrum’s questionable decision to take over Beaumont’s troubled operations.

It’s likely that Schwartz and Lyons will receive millions in severance payments.

Fox prior to his departure as CEO of Beaumont told employees that Corewell was committed to spending “significant dollars” to embark on a three to five-year plan to expand the health system’s private bed capacity. He said the expansion would involve “a lot of local planning in terms of where these bed towers are located,” which seemingly indicated an expansion of the hospital system’s footprint.

Details of the Corewell's Metro Detroit expansion plans couldn't be learned. Beaumont reportedly had a $4 billion reserve when Spectrum took over the troubled hospital system.

Spokesman Mark Geary, another John Fox loyalist, ignored a request for comment.

Elmouchi is clearly a decisive leader who moves quickly. Unlike his boss, CEO Tina Freese Decker, whose communications to employees are sappy and disingenuous, Elmouchi doesn’t sugarcoat his messages.

“I realize this is a lot of change. And, I recognize you have experienced many transitions over the past few years,” Elmouchi said in his message to employees announcing his shakeup. “These new transitions will require collaboration, grace and goodwill. I know we are up for the challenge. I believe these changes will help us as we work to improve the care we deliver and make us a better place to work going forward.”

Elmouchi, who holds medical and MBA degrees from University of Michigan, has his work cut out for him finding a worthy replacement, as his permanent successor will be saddled with his hand-picked management changes. It’s unfortunate Metro Detroit doesn’t have a cohesive business community to step in because it’s abundantly clear that Spectrum’s takeover of Beaumont was misguided and should be undone.

Elmouchi is from southeastern Michigan, as is his spouse. He clearly has the potential to restore the former Beaumont hospital system to its former glory and the former Spectrum hospital system would be better off without having its management focused on cleaning up the mess John Fox left behind.

Of course, undoing the problem deal might cost Freese Decker her job given that it was ultimately her decision. Spectrum’s former CFO publicly warned the Beaumont acquisition could potentially result in a “massive financial loss” but Freese Decker ignored the warning.

I will consider it Karma if and when Freese Decker is held accountable for the Beaumont deal. John Fox disclosed that he shopped Beaumont to at least 100 other hospital systems and there was good reason why none of them were interested. 

Deadline Detroit is preparing a series of articles about Corewell Health and CEO Tina Freese Decker and we’d welcome hearing from current and former employees. Confidentiality assured. We recommend not using company email.
 
Please contact Eric Starkman at eric@starkmanapproved.com



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