St. Joseph hospital gets interim leader

March 03, 2009|By Stephanie Desmon | Stephanie Desmon,

The St. Joseph Medical Center board of directors has appointed an outside executive to run the Towson hospital during a federal investigation of its financial dealings with an affiliated doctors group, a spokeswoman confirmed yesterday.

Beth O'Brien, senior vice president for operations at the Denver-based Catholic Health Initiative, which owns St. Joseph and 71 other hospitals, was named Thursday to the post. Three unnamed hospital executives have stepped down from their jobs to avoid a conflict of interest during the inquiry, the scope of which is unknown. The probe stems from a June 2008 information request from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

O'Brien "has a wealth of experience as a hospital CEO," according to a statement from the hospital. Officials would not confirm the status of John K. Tolmie, president and chief executive officer of St. Joseph since 2001. A phone call to his office was directed to the hospital's public affairs department, and a call to his home went unreturned.

St. Joseph spokeswoman Vivienne Stearns-Elliott said O'Brien was willing to take on the role despite the distance from her Colorado home and its open-ended nature.

"She's staying as long as we need her, and we don't know how long that's going to be," Stearns-Elliott said.

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