Busted, Now Fired: CEO of Roger Williams Medical Center Gets Pink Slip

We have previously posted about the federal indictment of the Roger Williams Medical Center (RWMC) here in Rhode Island, and of its current Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Robert A. Urciuoli, and two former executives.

The Providence Journal just reported that the CEO was just fired.

During a 5 1/2-hour meeting Monday night, the trustees of Roger Williams voted to fire Urciuoli “for cause” — meaning that he not only stops collecting a paycheck from his $400,000 post, but he also won’t receive any severance pay and the hospital stops paying his legal bills in his criminal case, according to his lawyer.
The Roger Williams board also voted to stop paying the legal fees of its former vice president, Frances P. Driscoll, who was also indicted earlier this month.
The termination letter said that Urciuoli was being fired as a result of ‘willful criminal acts,’ said his lawyer, Robert G. Flanders.
‘After taking the position for months that Mr. Urciuoli and the hospital had done nothing criminal in hiring John Celona, now they’re doing a 180 [degree turn] that is the product of extreme duress arising out of their negotiations with the government,’ said Flanders. ‘The board has acted as judge and jury and convicted him.’
If the hospital, in firing Urciuoli, is ‘accusing him of criminal wrongdoing, then he acted in his capacity as the president of the hospital,’ said Flanders. ‘He acted with the knowledge of and benefit of the hospital. So if the hospital is accusing him of wrongdoing, they’re pointing the finger at themselves.’

The Governor of Rhode Island had a different take on it,

Removing Robert Urciuoli as president of Roger Williams is an appropriate step in the wake of the recent federal indictments . . .,
But I also recognize that much more needs to be done to ensure the future of Roger Williams Hospital and to restore the trust of its employees, patients and the community at large.

Incidentally, the Providence Journal article suggested the previous influence of conflicts of interest on the hospital’s board might have contributed to Urciuoli’s longevity in the face of various allegations of unethical behavior,

The meeting, at the downtown Providence law offices of Holland & Knight, which represents the hospital, was stormy at times. Board member Richard A. Licht, a former Rhode Island lieutenant governor, argued against firing Urciuoli, according to someone familiar with the situation.
Flanders, Urciuoli’s lawyer, said that Licht had helped convince the board not to accept a deal with prosecutors on the eve of the hospital’s indictment on Jan. 5.
Licht, who is a friend of Urciuoli’s and has represented Urciuoli’s wife’s family real-estate business, did not return calls yesterday seeking comment.
As a member of the board’s executive committee in 1998, Licht had argued against firing Urciuoli after an internal review concluded that the hospital president had spent thousands of dollars of hospital funds on personal expenses — lavish family dinners, golf trips and stays in luxurious hotels.

The federal indictment of not only the CEO of Roger Williams Medical Center but also the medical center itself is a new low in our annals of bad management of health care organizations.

I would not expect his lawyer to agree with me, but I believe that firing the CEO was an important first step in the cleaning up of this 128 year old health care institution.

Of course, the current board did fire him before his day in court. But, again in my humble opinion, hospital (and other health care) leaders need to aspire to higher ethical standards than simply not yet having been convicted of a crime.

ADDENDUM (2 January, 2011) – Mr Licht was appointed head of the Department of Administration in the incoming administration of Governor Lincoln Chafee, see this Providence Journal article.