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Considine wasn't forced out, is leaving Meadowlands Hospital for another job

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Thomas Considine
Thomas Considine - (TIM LARSEN/GOVERNOR'S OFFICE)

Thomas Considine was not forced out of his job as chief executive of Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center after three months on the job, but is instead leaving voluntarily to transition into a new role, NJBIZ has learned.

According to two people with knowledge of the situation, Considine will become a consultant to TruPlan, the Meadowlands-sponsored health plan that was spun off by the for-profit hospital as a separate, independent entity.

Both sources requested anonymity because they are not authorized to speak on the matter.

The announcement of Considine's new role at TruPlan could come as early as this week.

While Considine is leaving his CEO post willingly, he was not necessarily happy in the job.

Considine took over as Meadowlands CEO on May 1 with an agreement that he would have full authority to run the hospital. One of the sources with knowledge of the situation said that wasn't the case.

"It became apparent early on that the owners were still involved in the day-to-day operations," the source said — again requesting anonymity because of the delicate nature of the comments. "Tom tried to work through a lot of those issues, but then realized it was best to sever his ties with them."

RELATED: Hospital CEO appears to be on his way out in surprise move

A source with knowledge of Considine's thinking would not detail the specific issues but wanted to be clear that it did have to do with his relationship with Richard Lipsky, one of the owners of Meadowlands and chairman of its board.

Considine came to Meadowlands with a three-year contract at the Secaucus hospital. It's unclear if will be entitled to any additional compensation upon his exit.

"I'm assuming there will be some type of negotiated and agreed upon settlement for his employment contract with the hospital," one of the sources said.

A spokesperson for the hospital could not be reached for comment.

Considine's duties with TruPlan were not detailed.

TruPlan is launching several new products this fall designed to make the health plan more attractive to employers. TruPlan will offer financial incentives to encourage members to use the Meadowlands hospital and doctor network — no deductible or copays — but those members willing to pay more out of pocket can use providers outside the Meadowlands network.

Who will take over as chief executive of Meadowlands Hospital is not clear.

On Friday, the state Health Department confirmed that it was  "aware of a potential change in leadership of the hospital." Spokeswoman Donna Leusner said  the department  "remains committed to working with the hospital to ensure continued access to quality healthcare."

Meadowlands has had problems with its finances and relations with its union, but progress was being made on both fronts.

Jeanne Otersen, policy director for the Health Professionals and Allied Employees union representing nurses and other workers at the troubled for-profit Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center, lashed out at the state after reports surfaced that Considine was resigning his post.

"The recent turmoil at Meadowlands Hospital should not be surprising to anyone," she said. "If, in fact, the newest CEO, after three months, has resigned — it begs the question of who is protecting our community's care?"

Otersen, who was complimentary of Considine's desire to work with the unions during layoffs announced in July, was not happy Friday. With Considine or the Department of Health.

"The question is not just where is the CEO, but where is the Department of Health?" she said, wondering aloud why the department is not more involved. "After three years of warnings and evidence of troubled management at Meadowlands Hospital is the Department of Health also missing (in action)?"

Considine, a former state commissioner of banking and insurance, took  over on May 1 with an upbeat turnaround vision for the hospital. Last month, Considine announced about 100 employees would be laid off to right-size the staff in light of a decline in daily patient volume to between 30 and 40. But he also said the hospital would be profitable this year.

Considine told NJBIZ in early July that the hospital would have an operating margin of at least 2 percent this year, and that the margin would continue to improve over the next four years.

In July the state health department made public a heavily redacted report on the finances of Meadowlands by consultant Executive Resources.

The first section of the report, dated Aug. 17, 2013, cited major internal financial issues at Meadowlands, including "cash flow challenges, no formal budgeting process and untimely financial statement audits."

The report said that, since 2010, the hospital "has been facing multiple financial problems which have created significant cash flow challenges, exacerbating difficulties in meeting day to day financial commitments."

But a second section of the report, dated March 5, 2014, estimated that the hospital will generate a surplus, or operating margin, of 2 percent for 2014, which the consultant said exceeds the 1 percent margin required by the state Department of Health.

At the time, the state health department said it was aware of the hospital's financial problems and that the hospital's new leadership was working to improve its financial condition.

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Beth Fitzgerald

Beth Fitzgerald

Beth Fitzgerald reports on health care, small business and higher education. She joined NJBIZ in 2008 after a 34-year career at the Star-Ledger and has been reporting on business in New Jersey since 1978. Her email is beth@njbiz.com and she is @bethfitzgerald8 on Twitter.

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