Exec: Brigham, Mass. General alliance ‘has never been stronger’


BOSTON (WPRI) — The head of Brigham & Women’s Hospital is trying to tamp down speculation about an increasingly strained relationship between her institution and Mass. General following the abrupt departure of their parent company’s CEO.

The Brigham and Mass. General founded Partners HealthCare in 1994, and the nonprofit medical company has become one of the most powerful institutions in Massachusetts. It now owns 12 hospitals, and is seeking to expand into Rhode Island by acquiring Women & Infants parent Care New England.

Yet there has always been perceived tension between the two hospitals, which often operate independently — and even compete — despite the shared Partners umbrella. The flame was fanned earlier this month when Partners’ CEO, Dr. David Torchiana, unexpectedly announced his retirement.

The Boston Business Journal went so far as to ask, “Is the state’s largest health care system at risk of collapse?” Shirley Leung, The Boston Globe’s interim editorial page editor and plugged-in business columnist, wrote: “Partners will downplay the family feud, but some of this rings true.” Referring to the two hospital’s presidents, Leung asked, “How long could you endure MGH’s Peter Slavin and the Brigham’s Betsy Nabel nipping at your heels?”

But Nabel insists the talk of tension is “completely overblown.”

“You can’t believe everything you read, with all due respect to your profession,” Nabel told WPRI 12 during an interview about the Care New England deal that will air Thursday night at 5 on Eyewitness News. “The relationship between the Brigham and Mass. General has never been stronger.”

“I’ve been in my role for nine years,” she said. “Dr. Peter Slavin is a very close colleague of mine. We actively work for ways in which we can collaborate together.”

As an example, she said the two hospital presidents met Monday to hear a proposal by their two chairs of pathology on how to build an integrated pathology lab.

“I can tell you, as an insider, that Partners is very sound and very stable,” she said. “Dr. Torchiana had been planning a retirement.” Referring to his successor, she continued, “Dr. Anne Klibanski, an outstanding physician-scientist, will do a terrific job as our interim CEO.”

Rhode Island’s Medical Makeover: Ted Nesi will have more from his interview with Brigham Health’s president this Thursday on Eyewitness News at 5 on WPRI 12 and on this weekend’s edition of Executive Suite.

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