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Burch, two others resign from UMMS board

University of Maryland Medical System Board Chairman Stephen Burch has submitted his resignation. (Bryan P. Sears)

University of Maryland Medical System Board Chairman Stephen Burch has submitted his resignation. (Bryan P. Sears)

Stephen Burch, Kevin O’Connor and Dr. Scott Rifkin have resigned from the University of Maryland Medical System’s board as it continues reform efforts in the wake of controversy over corporate contracts to members of the board.

Burch, the board’s chair, will resign effective July 1. O’Connor’s resignation is also set for July 1.

Rifkin will resign effective immediately because his company has an active agreement with the medical system.

“We thank Mr. Burch, Mr. O’Connor and Dr. Rifkin for their service and commitment to the Health System,” John Ashworth, the system’s interim president and CEO, said in a statement. “They brought invaluable experience and perspective to the Board in helping us shape the System for the future of health care.”

In the spring, it was disclosed that almost one-third of the UMMS board members had some sort of financial relationship with the system. While the lion’s share of the attention focused on now-resigned Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, who received $500,000 for her “Healthy Holly” children’s books, other board members also took leave or resigned. Two audits have been launched and a federal grand jury probe has begun.

Last month, UMMS CEO Robert Chrencik resigned from the board.

Board members John W. Dillon and Robert L. Pevenstein resigned from the board on March 18. Both also had contracts with the system.

Four other board members with potential financial conflicts involving either themselves or businesses they own or are employed by — August J. Chiasera, former state senator and insurance broker Francis X. Kelly, James A. Soltesz and Walter A. Tilley Jr. — have taken voluntary leaves of absence.

Kelly’s financial relationship with the system has come under particular scrutiny. He has made millions through insurance contracts with the system, including $2.8 million during the 2018 fiscal year.

Last month, Gov. Larry Hogan signed a law, effective immediately, aimed at strengthening oversight of the board and requiring more transparency to its operations, It included a provision that will eventually replace all current members.

The law also will prohibit members from engaging in sole-source contracting with the medical system and require them to submit annual financial disclosures.

Rifkin is the latest board member whose business dealings with the system has been revealed. The system said Rifkin’s company, Real Time Medical Systems, has an active agreement to provide software for a pilot program designed to reduce hospital readmissions.

Real Time Medical Systems typically charges hospitals about $10,000 a month for the system, but Rifkin said he provided it to the Maryland system for free. He estimates it helped save about $350,000 a month.

“The rules were that you couldn’t get dollars and we never received a dollar,” he said.

He resigned because with the new law he did not want to create an issue.

“I love the institution. I think it’s a wonderful organization,” Rifkin said. “It is a political climate now and you have to deal with it.”

Burch had served on the board for 11 years — the two five-year terms allowed by law plus an additional year on an expired term. In a statement, the system said he resigned to open the seat for a new appointee by the governor.

O’Connor is a former firefighter and a longtime official with the Baltimore County and national firefighters unions. He currently runs his own consulting firm.

This story has been updated with details from Rifkin about his business dealings with the system.


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