State hospitals group's chief to retire next July


October 18, 2007|By M. William Salganik | M. William Salganik,SUN REPORTER

Calvin Pierson, who steered the Maryland Hospital Association through an often-tumultuous decade and a half, announced yesterday that he would retire next July.

He is just the second president in the association's history of nearly 40 years; his 16-year term followed the 22-year tenure of founding president Dick Davidson, who left to become president of the American Hospital Association.

"He leads in a quiet, thoughtful way," said Albert "Skip" Counselman, vice chairman of the MHA's board, who will head the committee to search for Pierson's replacement. "He's a great consensus builder, but he never loses sight of the goal." Counselman is also board chairman for St. Agnes Hospital.

The hospital industry in the state has "a lot of divergent and competing interests," with large and small, urban and rural, academic and community hospitals sometimes seeking different goals, said Ben Mason, chairman of MHA's board and of the board of Bon Secours Baltimore Health System.

Yet the MHA has managed to present a unified front, Mason said, and "Cal has had a lot to do with that - making sure everyone is at the table and their voices are heard."

Pierson, 60, said that he worked in particular to maintain support among hospitals and policymakers for the state's unique hospital rate-setting system. Under that system, the Health Services Cost Review Commission sets rates that pay for care for the uninsured by charging slightly more to all others who pay for care.

"Our goal has always been to have discussions around payment equity occur around our board table, rather than at commission meetings," he said.

Also, Pierson said, the past decade and a half has seen MHA work to improve care through a Quality Indicator Project and a Patient Safety Center. He has also supported expanding coverage to more of the uninsured and was among the leaders of the opposition to a 2001 proposal for CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield to convert to for-profit operation.

In his remaining time in office, he said, he will support increased access to care for the uninsured, ideally through the special legislative session later this month; will work to improve payment to physicians, an issue being studied by a state task force; and will unveil a proposal to increase the state's nursing education capacity.

Pierson came to MHA after eight years as president of the Hospital Association of Rhode Island.

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