Saturday, March 7, 2009

Looking Back...Hearts Program Still Beating

January 10, 2003


'Hearts' program still beating -- Peoria hospital forgives debt

PEORIA - The Haitian Hearts program could become a not-for-profit charity under the Catholic Diocese of Peoria, with OSF Saint Francis Medical Center forgiving its debts so the organization can get a fresh start.

Bishop Daniel Jenky announced Thursday that he will initiate talks between hospital officials and others to create a new oversight structure for the Haitian Hearts organization, overseen by the diocese.

The Children's Hospital of Illinois at St. Francis announced it will forgive the Haitian Hearts debt, now at nearly $400,000, when an oversight structure is set up, and will continue to offer a 55 percent discount to the program's patients.

''The balance is now zero,'' said Dr. Rick Pearl, director of pediatric surgery.

The intent of this week's events is for the diocese, OSF and Haitian Hearts officials to select a board of directors and management structure for Haitian Hearts.

Dr. John Carroll, the founder of Haitian Hearts, will play a crucial role in the new organization, said Patricia Gibson, vice chancellor of the Peoria Diocese, though that role is not clear.

Carroll ''is aware that Bishop Jenky (and others) will work toward this goal and is most grateful and willing to work with this group,'' Gibson said. ''He was aware of what was going on and it has become finalized. We could not tell him that on Monday.''

Carroll is now in Haiti and could not be reached for comment. On Sunday and Monday, he picketed St. Francis to protest a hospital decision to stop cooperating with the Haitian Hearts program.

The hospital had said it would not accept any more Haitian patients until the organization paid its debt.

Hospital and diocese officials spoke with the Journal Star editorial board later Thursday to discuss the changes. Sister Judith Ann Duvall, president of OSF Healthcare System, said the charitable mission of the hospital's founders has not changed.

''We want this program to continue for the good of the children,'' she said.
Paul Kramer, executive director of Children's Hospital, said the Haitian Hearts program has been expanding, and last year treated 17 children. But the hospital system's charity burden also has been growing, he said, and is expected to be $40 million this year, including up to $6 million at Children's Hospital.

''We need limits'' on the number of Haitian children treated here, Kramer said.
Before more children come, better planning is needed, he said, including ''adequate medical input into the decisions'' about which children should come to Peoria. ''Dr. Carroll has agreed (with) this approach.''

Kramer said Carroll likely will not bring back any children from Haiti on this trip, though some still here need more care and will be treated.

Carroll's supporters on Thursday expressed optimism about the future of Haitian Hearts after learning about Jenky's initiative.

''I am grateful to the diocese for stepping in and taking an interest in this program for its continued benefit to the Haitian kids,'' Ann Wagenbach, coordinator of Haitian Hearts, said. ''There are a lot of details we'll have to work out (but) it sounds very positive.''

''If the bishop is supportive, I'm thrilled,'' said supporter Laurie Howard.

The bad feelings and misunderstandings between Carroll and hospital managers can be overcome with a fresh start, diocese and hospital officials said. ''Once partners work together, trust occurs,'' Pearl said.

St. Francis fired Carroll in December of 2001 from his job of 21 years as an emergency room physician after a dispute with hospital managers over standards of care, which Carroll wanted to improve. He still retains his hospital privileges.

CAPTION: A NEW PLAN: Bishop Daniel Jenky (left) hopes to create a new oversight structure for Haitian Hearts. Dr. John Carroll (right), founder of group, will play a role in the new organization.

My comments today, March 9, 2009:

1. OSF asked for a meeting with the Journal Star and the Catholic Diocese of Peoria. They had the meeting at the Journal Star. Haitian Hearts was not invited and I was in Haiti working.

2. OSF changed the figure yet again of the amount Haitian Hearts owed them. In this article OSF said less than $400,000 dollars. This was significantly less than what they told the Journal a few days before when OSF reported that we owed them over $500,000 dollars. The bottom line is OSF didn't know. So they forgave the debt and hoped no one would want to look at their books.

3. Haitian Hearts had no say at all in the creation of a "board of directors" with the Diocese of Peoria. Contrary to Patricia Gibson's statements, I did not know what was going to happen in Peoria. OSF just needed the Bishop to take over to try and legitimize OSF's horrible actions against the Haitian kids. It seems odd that Bishop Jenky would want to be involved since he and Monsignor Rohlfs and Patricia Gibson always claimed that OSF was a "pontificate of Rome" and OSF could do what they wanted without Diocesan approval. Why would the Diocese want to get involved with a bunch of sick, poor, black kids from Haiti? It was damage control.

During the next 6 months we met with Bishop Jenky just once, in February 2003, for a total of 45 minutes. I would have thought that Haitian lives were more important than the 45 minutes dedicated to them. The meeting was run by Bishop Jenky and Monsignor Rohlfs and was comprised of hand picked people by the Diocese. My brother Tom asked Bishop Jenky at that meeting if I could go to Haiti and pick out some sick kids and bring them back to Peoria. The Bishop said no. We were given "jobs" and told we would meet again in a couple of weeks. I called Patricia Gibson repeatedly during the next month, however no further meeting occurred until the middle of July, 2003 when a tiny group of us met with Monsignor Rohlfs and some people from OSF. This final meeting lasted 60 minutes and Haitian Hearts was ditched by the Diocese and OSF. Bishop Jenky was not at that final meeting.

4. Right after the meeting between the Diocese, the Journal Star, and OSF reported in the article above, my brother Tom called me in Haiti and basically told me that Bishop Jenky and the Diocese were taking over. Tom asked me if that was ok. Neither of us thought Haitian Hearts had a choice at that point. They had the Haitian kids between a rock and a hard spot. Friends of ours counselled us that the Diocese may not act in the best interest of the Haitian Hearts' patients. That proved to be the case. During the next six months Bishop Jenky was afraid to stand up to OSF for money reasons. He wanted his Diocesan Capital Campaign to run smoothly in 2003. And so in July, 2003 Haitian Hearts became history in Peoria.

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