Chase Brex­ton CEO leav­ing his po­si­tion

Dis­cord dur­ing sum­mer led to union­iza­tion of staff

Baltimore Sun - - NEWS - By Mered­ith Cohn mered­ith.cohn@balt­sun.com

Richard Lari­son will step down as CEO of Chase Brex­ton Health Care at the end of the year. He said Tues­day that he would not re­new his con­tract.

His de­par­ture fol­lows the re­cent ac­ri­mony be­tween the com­mu­nity health care provider and its em­ploy­ees, which cul­mi­nated in the union­iza­tion of its work­force.

“While this was a con­sid­er­ably dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion, I be­lieve end­ing my ten­ure at Chase Brex­ton will al­low the or­ga­ni­za­tion to move for­ward,” Lari­son said in a state­ment. “Chase Brex­ton’s mis­sion must come above all else, and it is my hope that this change will al­low the or­ga­ni­za­tion to re­gain its fo­cus and con­tinue to pro­vide ex­cep­tional pa­tient care for our un­der­served com­mu­ni­ties.”

Lari­son came to Chase Brex­ton in 2012 from Johns Hop­kins Medicine International, where he served as CEO for Hos­pi­tal Punta Paci­fica in Panama City, Panama. He was brought in to help en­sure the long-term vi­a­bil­ity of the sys­tem, which was launched in 1978 to serve gay men.

Chase Brex­ton has since ex­panded with clin­ics through­out the Baltimore area that serve a wider pop­u­la­tion that in­cludes trans­gen­der, bi­sex­ual and Med­i­caid pa­tients.

The sys­tem, which has its head­quar­ters in Mount Ver­non, re­ported that it served 26,143 pa­tients across five cen­ters last year.

Lari­son’s an­nounce­ment sur­prised work­ers, who ex­pect to be­gin col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing for their first con­tract with man­age­ment to­day. The work­ers voted over­whelm­ingly to union­ize in Au­gust.

Work­ers com­plained of longer work­days, heav­ier work­loads and re­duced train­ing, and said they wanted more say in de­ci­sions. Chase Brex­ton said they did not need to union­ize.

Each side com­plained that the other’s ac­tions dur­ing the process to union­ize were un­fair. The dis­cord led law­mak­ers from Baltimore’s Gen­eral As­sem­bly del­e­ga­tion to write a let­ter to Chase Brex­ton lead­er­ship ex­press­ing con­cern for the health sys­tem’s vul­ner­a­ble pa­tients.

Del. Mary Wash­ing­ton said Lari­son’s de­par­ture would al­low the board of di­rec­tors to “reded­i­cate it­self to the mis­sion” of Chase Brex­ton.

“The com­mu­nity rose up this sum­mer, and it’s a sign when peo­ple or­ga­nize to ex­press con­cern about qual­ity health care and the di­rec­tion of a com­mu­nity-based health sys­tem, their voices are heard,” Wash­ing­ton said.

Law­mak­ers, work­ers and pa­tients were upset by the fir­ing of five long­time staff mem­bers.

The staffers were told that man­age­ment had lost faith in their lead­er­ship, but the fired work­ers and those still em­ployed by Chase Brex­ton saw the ter­mi­na­tions as a move to in­tim­i­date other work­ers be­fore the union vote.

“We hope this will be an op­por­tu­nity for Chase Brex­ton to re­ally fol­low through on its mis­sion and hire lead­er­ship that is re­ally re­flec­tive of the care they say they want to give pa­tients, and the re­spect they want for work­ers,” said Rae Dun­nav­ille, a spokesper­son for the work­ers’ union, 1199 SEIU United Health­care Work­ers East.

Lari­son’s last day will be Dec. 31. He is to serve in an ad­vi­sory role while the Chase Brex­ton board searches for his re­place­ment. Joseph Lavelle, serv­ing as in­terim pres­i­dent of op­er­a­tions, will help run day-to-day op­er­a­tions.

Carolyn Kennedy, the pres­i­dent of the board, thanked Lari­son “for his con­tri­bu­tions as CEO.”

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