Beleaguered Hospital CEO resigns

After months of criticism over his policy toward underinsured patients, Madara calls it quits.

By Michael Lipkin

James Madara, dean of the Biological Sciences Division (BSD) and the Pritzker School of Medicine and CEO of the Medical Center (UCMC), announced he would resign last month, effective October 1.

“We have made extraordinary advances in all areas of our mission,” Madara said in a letter to staff. “It is time to turn things over to a new leader, who will inject fresh energy and ideas into our work and ensure our momentum and pace of accomplishment can continue unabated.”

Madara, who united the University’s biomedical research, clinic work, and teaching as the UCMC’s first CEO, has recently been the subject of two University policy reviews and bad press surrounding his policies. Department of Medicine Chair Everett Vokes will serve as interim CEO while a nationwide search for a replacement continues. Neither Madara nor Vokes was available for comment.

As CEO, Madara helped streamline UCMC bureaucracy, increase fundraising, oversee several new medical buildings on campus, and increase medical student resources.

But for months Madara has been criticized for the Urban Health Initiative (UHI), a policy which refers underinsured patients to neighborhood health clinics and community hospitals instead of treating them at the UCMC or its local clinics.

While Madara has said the program helps residents find better preventive care and treatment, critics claim it outsources routine health services for patients without the means to pay. They point to the closing of several University clinics on the South Side that once provided primary care to many residents, while the University retains their revenue-generating clinics in more affluent neighborhoods.

The UHI’s impact on the emergency room, which transferred its patients needing less urgent care to other area facilities, came under stronger attack. The plan came under fire from hospital doctors, a national lobbying group, and Representative Bobby Rush of Illinois, who asked Congress to investigate the policy.

President Robert Zimmer asked for a review of the ER policy in March, led by Vokes, and restored cut hospital beds. A UCMC spokesman did not comment on the status of the review.

Nonetheless, Zimmer applauded Madara in a letter to faculty, reiterating his support for the UHI.

“We have become a national leader and innovator in finding solutions to the nation’s health care challenges through our work on the Urban Health Initiative,” Zimmer wrote. “I want to express my appreciation for and confidence in the Medical Center’s management team, which has implemented our strategy with notable success, especially through the challenging climate of the past year.”

Madara has also been criticized by his own staff. Last year, 76 BSD faculty members signed a letter to Madara, worrying that his reorganization of the UCMC happened too quickly and without enough faculty and staff input.

“The faculty has been disenfranchised,” the letter said. “ combined responsibilities as C.E.O. and dean have distanced from faculty affairs and aspirations.”

Madara created a review board to recommend ways to increase faculty input. The review was expected to be completed in June.

Madara will remain at the UCMC as faculty.