Boston Globe $hilling Again for Children’s Hospital

October 18, 2016

This is getting really flagrant.

As the hardreading staff has noted multiple times, the Boston Globe has put on a full-court press over the past week promoting the proposed expansion of Boston Children’s Hospital.

Last week it was an op-ed piece from former Massachusetts Taxpayer Foundation president Michael Widmer urging state officials to get off their duffs and approve the expansion, already. Problem was, the Globe failed to mention that Widmer sits on the hospital’s Board Committee for Community Service.

On Sunday, this Globe editorial urged the state’s Public Health Council to approve the project.

Now today comes this op-ed by Jack Connors Jr., chairman emeritus of Partners HealthCare. The piece ends this way:

Hospitals around New England and beyond are referring their most challenging pediatric cases to the talented professionals at Boston Children’s Hospital. These clinicians have dedicated their lives to caring for children with the most complex medical needs. We need to come together and give them our support. We need to let them prepare for a better future for our children and grandchildren. There are so many families who rely on Boston Children’s today — and will rely on it in the future — who will be eternally grateful.

 

So, that’s three pro, no con for those of you keeping score at home.

As the Globe has been stacking the deck editorially, Children’s has been running full-page ads in the paper also touting the expansion. Here is today’s ad-ition:

 

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At this point, the only balance the Globe seems concerned with is its checking account balance.

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Boston Globe Still Shilling for Children’s Hospital

October 17, 2016

At this point, it’s hard not to think that the Boston Globe is so far in the tank for the proposed Children’s Hospital expansion, they should be wearing scuba gear on Morrissey Boulevard.

As the hardreading staff noted last week, the Globe ran this op-ed piece by former Massachusetts Taxpayer Foundation president Michael Widmer on Wednesday. Widmer argued that there’s been too much shilly-shallying over approving the expansion and that state agencies should step aside and let Children’s get on with it.

What did not get mentioned in the op-ed piece is that Michael Widmer sits on the hospital’s Board Committee for Community Service.

Making things look even worse, this full-page ad also ran in last Wednesday’s Globe.

 

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Sure looks like the left hand does know what the right hand is doing. (Another full-page Children’s ad ran last Friday.)

And then came this editorial in yesterday’s Globe.

A yes for Children’s Hospital project

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A STATE PANEL’S upcoming vote on a $1 billion building project proposed by Boston Children’s Hospital comes down to this: Will allowing one of the nation’s most prestigious pediatric care centers to become bigger also drive up medical spending statewide and cause irreparable harm to Children’s competitors? The short answer: It doesn’t have to. Concerns about the project’s ripple effects are legitimate, but they don’t outweigh the need to upgrade a hospital that provides life-saving care to thousands of children from Massachusetts and around the world.

 

(To be sure graf goes here)

To be sure, it’s quite possible that everyone at the Globe is just swimming in their own lane and there’s no concerted effort to boost the fortunes of a deep-pockets advertiser. (We count at least six full-page ads over the past seven months.)

But when the paper won’t even properly identify a Children’s board member using the Globe’s op-ed page to flack for the hospital, you really start to wonder.


Boston Globe Still in the Tank for Children’s Hospital

October 14, 2016

Apparently, the Boston Globe is willing to carry water for Boston’s Children’s Hospital like Gunga Din in the ongoing dispute over the medical center’s expansion plan.

As the hardreading staff noted the other day, the Globe ran this op-ed piece by former Massachusetts Taxpayer Foundation president Michael Widmer in Wednesday’s edition.

Watchdog overreaches on Children’s Hospital expansion

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ONE OF the iron laws of public policy is that regulatory agencies have an irresistible tendency to push the limits of their power and authority. Whether it’s the environment, transportation, or health care, the agency seems compelled to prove the purpose of its existence by reaching ever further into the regulatory arena.

We saw a classic example of that recently when the Health Policy Commission inserted itself into Boston Children’s Hospital’s determination of need application to upgrade its facilities. This is the first time that the HPC has chosen to comment on a determination of need application, and it did it 10 months after the hospital first submitted its application to the Department of Public Health, which had launched an extensive public process with widespread commentary and analysis.

 

Widmer also wrote that “the Health Policy Commission should never have inserted itself into the process in the first place.”

What we wrote was that Widmer shouldn’t have been inserted into the Globe op-ed page without the paper noting that he serves on the Children’s Hospital Board Committee for Community Service.

Coincidentally (or not), Wednesday’s Globe also featured this full-page ad.

 

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Conflict of interest, right?

Calls for full disclosure, right?

No such thing from the Globe.

So we sent this email to Globe editorial page editor Ellen Clegg:

Hi, Ellen,

[We] just published this post on Two-Daily Town.

http://bit.ly/2dXG7ZD

[We] would welcome the opportunity to post your response.

Sincerely,
[The Hardreading Staff]

 

So far . . . nothing.

No response from Ms. Clegg. No editor’s note about Widmer in the Globe. No nothing.

Except . . .

Another full-page ad in today’s Globe.

 

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(Children’s is so desperate to burnish its image, the hospital even ran the ad in today’s Boston Herald.)

To recap: The Boston Globe ran an op-ed piece from a Children’s Hospital Board member (without identifying him as such) that promoted the hospital’s controversial expansion plan on the same day the paper ran a lucrative full-page ad promoting the hospital’s controversial expansion plan.

And then ran another lucrative ad.

That’s not journalism. That’s full-service marketing.

Globe editors should know better. Globe readers deserve better.


Conflict of Interest on Boston Globe’s Op-Ed Page?

October 12, 2016

Former Massachusetts Taxpayer Foundation president Michael Widmer has this op-ed piece in today’s Boston Globe.

Watchdog overreaches on Children’s expansion

bch-bridge-renderings-1a

ONE OF the iron laws of public policy is that regulatory agencies have an irresistible tendency to push the limits of their power and authority. Whether it’s the environment, transportation, or health care, the agency seems compelled to prove the purpose of its existence by reaching ever further into the regulatory arena.

We saw a classic example of that recently when the Health Policy Commission inserted itself into Boston Children’s Hospital’s determination of need application to upgrade its facilities. This is the first time that the HPC has chosen to comment on a determination of need application, and it did it 10 months after the hospital first submitted its application to the Department of Public Health, which had launched an extensive public process with widespread commentary and analysis.

 

Widmer further states that “the Health Policy Commission should never have inserted itself into the process in the first place.”

But others say the Globe should never have inserted Widmer into the op-ed page – at least not without full disclosure.

An opponent of the Children’s expansion sent us this:

[Widmer] chastised the Health Policy Commission for scrutinizing the largest hospital expansion proposal in state history. HPC is supposed to help control health care costs in the Commonwealth, so of course it would raise objections to this unnecessary proposal. Then, Widmer did not disclose his own role with the hospital. The Globe should be more careful, and the hospital should be more honest.

 

Widmer’s role with Children’s? He’s listed on the hospital’s website as a member of its Board Committee for Community Service.

 

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In addition, there’s this comment attached to the web version of Widmer’s op-ed:

Mike Widmer is on the Board of Children’s Hospital. Printing this column is wrong. Given the Globe’s revenue struggles, it could have charged Children’s for ad space here.

Either very sloppy, or a serious breach of ethics by both the Globe and Widmer– or maybe both.

 

We’ve sent an email to Editorial Page Editor Ellen Clegg asking for a response. As always, we’ll keep you posted.

UPDATE: As the irrepressible Alex Beam notes, I failed to mention the Children’s ad on page 3 of today’s Globe.

 

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Well, that closes the circle, eh?


Skunk Already at the Prouty Garden?

March 21, 2016

 

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When we last left the tug-of-war over demolition of the Prouty Garden at Boston Children’s Hospital three weeks ago, it was pretty much in limbo.

There was a hearing before representatives of the Massachusetts Public Health Council, which has final authority over the project to replace the garden with a billion-dollar expansion.

And Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey had “declined a request by opponents to block Boston Children’s Hospital from building an 11-story addition where the beloved Prouty Garden currently sits,” according to a Boston Globe report.

And then . . . nothing.

Except this, yesterday, from splendid reader SFR:

The skunk at the party is the chainsaws that have ALREADY started taking down trees and bushes in the Prouty Garden, before the new building is even approved; this shows beyond a shadow of a doubt there is a very strong and real desire to destroy Prouty, whether a building goes up or not. The “Friends of Prouty” failed to anticipate this, and did not get a restraining order against the hospital to prevent this destruction. Even if the new building is denied by DPH, by the time the decision is made, what’s left of Prouty will be dirt and saw dust.

 

This is the way the Prouty Garden ends? Not with a bang but a whimper?


Prouty Garden Fight Gets Even More Tangled

February 26, 2016

Children’s Hospital, already engaged in an increasingly public skirmish with advocates fighting to save the medical facility’s Prouty Garden, now faces an even bigger and potentially more damaging battle. From Page One of today’s Boston Globe.

‘I’m very angry,’ teen says of ordeal

Pelletiers sue Children’s Hospital, cite misdeeds

 

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Nearly two years after she returned home in the arms of her father, Justina Pelletier was back in the spotlight Thursday, speaking in a small, slightly shaky voice about the 16 months she spent in state custody, much of it in a locked psychiatric ward.

Justina, whose case drew national attention to the power of medical professionals to override parental rights, said she remains outraged that she was placed in state custody in 2013 after Boston Children’s Hospital accused her parents of interfering with her care.

The 17-year-old Connecticut girl clutched a purple stress ball, fingernails painted turquoise, as she spoke from a wheelchair in front of the State House, where her parents had convened a press conference to discuss the lawsuit they recently filed against Children’s Hospital.

 

Boston Herald columnist Joe Fitzgerald frames it as a jump ball:

[W]hat we’re seeing in the heart-wrenching case of Justina Pelletier is a drama that defies easy answers, a high-stakes confrontation in which what we do not know is infinitely more important than what we do know.

 

There’ll be plenty of headlines to make Children’s officials cringe as this case plays out. Meanwhile, the hits just keep on coming in the Prouty Garden rumpus.

Yesterday there was this front-page piece in the Business section.

Amid backlash, hospital defends expansion plan

When Dr. Sitaram Emani, a cardiac surgeon at Boston Children’s Hospital, heard about the baby from Springfield with the failing heart, he knew he could help.

But Emani quickly realized there was no room for the boy at the overcrowded hospital. Under sedation, the boy Screen Shot 2016-02-26 at 1.21.18 AMwaited for weeks until Emani could fix the holes in his heart.

It’s a story that doctors and executives at Children’s, the region’s dominant pediatric care center, tell again and again: They don’t have enough beds, surgeries are being delayed, patients are being turned away and sent to other hospitals. And it’s why executives say they need to complete a $1 billion expansion of their Longwood Medical Area campus, a project that would create an 11-story tower with more room for doctors and nurses to treat more patients.

 

Except for those pesky Prouty people.

Yet the hospital’s message has been undercut recently by a group opposed to the proposal for reasons that have nothing to do with surgeries or beds. They object to the plan to build the tower over the Prouty Garden, a tranquil refuge for countless sick and dying children and their families. And many have emotional stories to tell.

 

But it’s the hospital’s story that’s mostly told in the Globe piece, which includes this:

 

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Advantage: Children’s.

Then there’s the paid portion of the $tately local broadsheet’s edition yesterday: this full-page ad on A12.

 

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(To be sure graf goes here.)

To be sure, there’s no reason to say that the Globe’s financial interest play into the paper’s coverage. It’s just that they sometimes do seem intertwined.

Regardless, the Prouty dustup is back in the Globe headlines today with this front-page Business piece.

Opponents lobby to keep Prouty

Opponents of Boston Children’s Hospital’s proposed $1.5 billion expansion asked the hospital to disclose all the alternative locations it considered before settling on a plan to build an 11-story tower on the site of the beloved Prouty Garden.Screen Shot 2016-02-26 at 1.46.00 PM

They asked state public health officials to deny Children’s application, arguing that hospital executives have not met the state requirements for proving cost effectiveness, particularly regarding poorer patients.

The expansion project, which would add a pediatric heart center, neonatal intensive care unit, and private rooms, has attracted opposition from some patients’ families and doctors, including renowned pediatrician Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, who say that the half-acre garden has served as an oasis for families struggling with serious illness.

 

Maybe even the Pelletiers, eh?


Boston Globe Argues with Itself Over Prouty Garden

February 24, 2016

The Prouty Garden debate continues in the news today, with the Boston Globe of two minds over the planned demolition of the beloved oasis at Children’s Hospital to make way for a 500,000 square foot state-of-the-art intensive care unit for infants, a pediatric heart center, and additional operating rooms.

A Globe editorial makes the case for pursuing the greater good in this case. Under the headline “Children’s has the right vision for Prouty Garden,” the editors say this:

Children’s has demonstrated its willingness to work with the City of Boston, the Prouty family, and others to create spaces that can serve as a respite for families with sick children. [Children’s chief operating officer Dr. Kevin] Churchwell says the hospital recognizes “green space is part of the healing process.” Next year, a new garden is scheduled to open on the roof of Children’s main building. The expansion plans also call for a smaller outdoor garden (about half the size of Prouty), and indoor spaces that can be visited by patients who are unable to go outside. As hospital officials have pointed out, Prouty often isn’t usable by anyone during cold weather months.

 

Then again, “Jim McManus, a consultant working with Friends of the Prouty Garden — a group that has mobilized support for keeping Prouty intact — isn’t impressed. Rooftop gardens are typically windswept, unwelcoming, and devoid of wildlife, he says, and indoor green spaces are too hot in summer. Children’s can grow ‘without trashing Prouty,’ McManus says. ‘If you put a building there, it’s irreversible.'”

Just what that means in human terms is illustrated in Thomas Farragher’s Metro column today. Farragher tells the story of David Horton, a 13-year-old New Jersey boy who died of a brain tumor in 1973 after 13 operations at Children’s. His family spent untold hours with David in the Prouty Garden. “It was the only place in the hospital where you could breathe fresh air and get outside,’’ Elizabeth Richter, David’s sister, told Farragher. “And it was the only way we could see David. We’d spend hours there.’’

And when David died, his family decided he should spend eternity there.

[T]hey wrapped him in a blanket, placed him the backseat of a Volkswagen Beetle, and drove through a snowstorm from New Jersey to Boston for an autopsy. “My Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 12.44.15 PMparents hoped something could be learned for the future treatment of kids with similar condition,’’ Richter said. “They were determined to do that. They wanted his life and death to be a benefit to others.’’

And then they wanted peace for their son. David was cremated, and on a cold February evening, the Horton family assembled for the last time in the garden David loved.

 

And scattered his ashes in the Prouty Garden.

Farragher concludes:

How can state officials calculate the worth of the land consecrated with the ashes of David Horton? How can Boston Children’s Hospital assess the cost of abandoning its promise — made 60 years ago — that the Prouty Garden would be a refuge for its little patients for as long as the hospital was working to heal them?

How can anyone place a value on something like that? They can’t. It’s immeasurable.

Immeasurable. It’s a good word for the loss that will be absorbed if bulldozers are allowed to plow under David Horton’s final resting place.

 

The Massachusetts Department of Public health will hold a hearing tomorrow on the expansion proposed by Children’s Hospital. You can bet the Friends of the Prouty Garden – and of David Horton – will be out in full force.