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Three top Baylor St. Luke's execs out following CMS review

Three top Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center including its president have left the hospital following a federal investigation into a patient death.

The hospital said in a news release that President Gay Nord, Chief Nursing Officer Jennifer Nitschmann and Senior Vice President of Operations Dr. David Berger “have left their roles.”

Douglas Lawson, CEO of Catholic Health Initiatives’ Texas division, has been appointed to replace Nord, effective immediately. He will continue to serve in his CEO role, which oversees Baylor St. Luke’s and 15 other Texas hospitals. In the coming days, Lawson will announce a transition plan, the release said.

The news release did not say whether the departures were voluntary, but mentioned a recent CMS review of the death of a patient who had received a blood transfusion at the hospital. Mark Shapiro, chairman of the hospital’s board, said in a statement the hospital is “deeply saddened” by the incident and that aggressive action is needed to address the “significant challenges” the hospital faces. He said the hospital is developing a 90-day plan to revamp clinical initiatives, patient experience and workplace culture.

“CMS’ review raises concerns that are simply unacceptable to the board or the hospital’s owners, CHI and the Baylor College of Medicine,” Shapiro said. “As trustees for a significant public trust, it is important for the board to ensure that Baylor St. Luke’s has the leadership and resources it needs to meet the challenges of today’s incredibly complex healthcare environment.”

Lawson has been the CEO of CHI’s Texas division since March 2018. Prior to that, he was president of Baylor Scott & White Health’s North Texas Central region and Baylor University Medical Center.

Baylor St. Luke’s has been co-owned by Catholic Health Initiatives and the Baylor College of Medicine since 2014. The hospital will move into a replacement facility in the fall of 2024.

A yearlong investigation by the Houston Chronicle and ProPublica uncovered serious problems in the hospital’s transplant center that led to a high rate of patient deaths. The CMS stopped funding the program in August. The hospital replaced the program’s surgical director in October.