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President, CEO of Saint Agnes Medical Center Resigns

June 18, 2008

By Tracy Correa, The Fresno Bee, Calif.

Jun. 18–The president and chief executive of Saint Agnes Medical Center resigned Tuesday, a month after the state closed the hospital’s cardiac surgery unit for six days because of patient infections.

Mathew Abraham’s resignation is effective immediately, said Michael Slubowski, Trinity Health’s president of hospital and health networks. Michigan-based Trinity Health is the corporate owner of Saint Agnes.

Abraham could not be reached for comment. His telephone number is unlisted.

Slubowski said Abraham resigned “to pursue other opportunities.”

He also said that Trinity “respects his decision.”

Asked whether the resignation was related to the infection problems that surfaced last year, he said, “These are sensitive personnel issues.” He declined to comment further.

Abraham had been CEO at Saint Agnes since January 2005, when he was hired to replace longtime hospital president Sister Ruth Marie Nickerson.

Over the past year, the hospital struggled with an unusual spike in infections among open-heart surgery patients that may have caused the death of two — and possibly three — patients.

In November 2007, Saint Agnes was investigated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state health officials after at least a dozen patients developed chest-wound infections.

Last month, state health officials forced the hospital to suspend cardiac surgeries after leg-wound infections became a concern. Coronary artery bypass graft surgery often involves removing a blood vessel from the leg, arm, chest or abdomen to replace blocked coronary arteries.

The state halted the surgeries from May 23 to May 29.

News of Abraham’s resignation made its way through the medical community Tuesday afternoon.

Tim Joslin, chief executive for Community Medical Centers, said he heard rumblings among medical staff Tuesday afternoon but wasn’t sure whether the rumor was true.

He said he knew Abraham, although not well, and occasionally ran into him at hospital-industry meetings.

“We had worked together a little bit,” he said.

Joslin said he didn’t know enough to comment on Abraham’s departure.

Thomas Anderson, chief operating officer at Saint Agnes since April 2007, has been named interim CEO. He has held several senior level positions — including chief executive — for various hospitals, including Centura Health in Colorado and HCA, or Hospital Corp. of America.

Slubowski said Trinity immediately will launch a national search for a new chief executive at Saint Agnes with input from the hospital’s local board of trustees.

The reporter can be reached at tcorrea@fresnobee.com or (559) 441-6378.

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