The Perfect Enemy | Former CEO Dr. Akram Boutros led MetroHealth through jail crisis, COVID-19: Here’s a timeline
December 10, 2022
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CLEVELAND, Ohio — Former MetroHealth CEO Dr. Akram Boutros, who was fired Monday, led the health system through the expansion of the hospital system, the COVID-19 pandemic and a health crisis at the Cuyahoga County jail. He also called on Cleveland’s hospitals to address the city’s social determinants of health.

The MetroHealth Board of Trustees fired Boutros, who had led the hospital system for nearly 10 years, saying he had given himself more than $1.9 million in unauthorized bonuses. Boutros said the bonuses were authorized by the board.

Here are highlights from Boutros’ tenure:

June 2013: Boutros was named president and CEO of MetroHealth. Born in Cairo, Egypt, had been an internist with a 25-year record of successful hospital leadership at academic medical centers, community hospitals and specialty hospitals before coming to Cleveland.

2018-2019: A string of deaths in the county jail raised concerns over the healthcare of inmates. MetroHealth, at that time, partially oversaw inmate healthcare, and employed Gary Brack, a whistleblower whose public testimony about the crisis prompted County Executive Armond Budish to strong-arm Boutros into removing Brack from his job.

2019: Construction began on the Glick Center, a new hospital tower that would be the centerpiece of MetroHealth’s multi-year transformational building project.

April 2019: Cuyahoga County Council unanimously approved a three-year, $42 million deal with MetroHealth to oversee all health care in the county jails.

June 2019: Boutros called the community to action on Cleveland’s health problems, noting that health outcomes are tied to social determinants of health. To address these issues, Boutros said the healthcare community and local leaders needed “to focus on promoting health rather than fighting illness.”

2019: MetroHealth created the Institute for H.O.P.E. (Health, Opportunity, Partnership and Empowerment), connecting patients and neighbors to fresh food, stable housing, education, career training and other services.

March 2020: In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the health system began testing for the coronavirus, with results ready within two hours.

Dec. 2021: Boutros announced that he intended to step down at the end of 2022.

Aug. 2022: The hospital system’s affordable housing project Vía Sana in Cleveland’s Clark-Fulton neighborhood opened. It was the first $15 million investment in MetroHealth’s $60 million mixed-use development off West 25th Street, aimed at improving the physical and economic health of the community adjacent to its main campus.

Sept. 2022: Airica Steed of Chicago was selected to succeed Boutros as the next president and CEO of MetroHealth.

Oct. 8, 2022: The $42 million, 112-bed MetroHealth Cleveland Heights Behavioral Health Hospital opened. It is expected to treat about 5,000 patients a year for such conditions as bipolar disorder, depression, addiction, mood disorders and dual diagnosis, or having both mental illness and substance abuse.

Nov. 5, 2022: The 380-bed, $759 million Glick Center opened to patients, replacing the health system’s old towers.

Monday, Nov. 21: Boutros was fired by the board of directors. Dr. Nabil Chehade was named interim CEO until Steed takes over on Dec. 5.

Tuesday, Nov. 22: Boutros said the bonuses he received were proper and the board was aware of them. Boutros accused board members of improperly discussing the hiring of his successor outside of board meetings, in violation of Ohio’s Sunshine Law. The board said it acted lawfully.