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Doctors protest being "locked out" of hospital decision making

Wednesday, November 8, 2017, 7:57 am News Flash Archive

Local physicians appeared before the Greenwood City Council yesterday afternoon to express their concerns about being locked out of input into the management and direction of the Greenwood Leflore Hospital.

Speaking for the doctors was Dr. Craig Clark, a neurosurgeon at the Greenwood Leflore Hospital, The exchange lasted just over 20 minutes. It may be viewed here beginning at the 2 minute, 30 second mark: Doctors address Council about concerns.

Dr. Clark spoke on behalf of the entire hospital medical staff as chairman of the executive committee. He revealed that three of the five hospital trustees refused to meet with the medical staff in the past several weeks. The doctors are not consulted or listened to in their concerns about the management and direction of the hospital. Half a dozen other leading physicians, including Chief of Staff Dr. Henry Flautt, accompanied Dr. Clark at the council meeting.

The Board of Trustees sets the policy and makes the general management decisions for the hospital. Physicians have little input into the way the hospital is run, or in making basic decisions to ensure quality care or patient safety.

The Taxpayers Channel can confirm that Sammy Foster (appointed by the city of Greenwood to the hospital board), Nick Chandler, and Freddie White-Johnson (both appointed by the county), are the three trustees who have refused to meet with the medical staff in the past several weeks.

Clark began by informing the council: "We are concerned about the vitality and viability, the long term status of the hospital, and the effect that has on the community."

Dr. Clark revealed that the hospital board had recently hired a consulting firm to assess changes needed to keep the hospital viable in the years to come.

Clark continued: "We presently have three board [of trustee] members who have expressed an unwillingness to participate in any deliberations or meeting with the medical staff about the findings of the consultants and how that consultant report should be implemented."

At a called meeting of the medical staff with the trustees two weeks ago, only 2 of the 5 trustees attended.

Clark said: "We feel like the medical staff should have input into decisions that are made about the hospital because ... we are concerned about our patients, we are concerned about our patients' safety, and quality of care issues. We cannot reasonably respond to those if we do not have any input into the process."

"We were very upset that three of those members, or a majority of the hospital board, refused to come meet with us."

According to Clark, a second meeting was scheduled, and was held Monday evening, but the same three members refused to attend.

Of their refusal, Clark stated, "we cannot understand why these people do not want to maintain a dialog with the medical staff."

Clark did not name the members - Foster, Chandler, and White-Johnson - who refused to attend. Regarding the city's appointment, Sammy Foster, Clark said that the medical staff "is very frustrated. We feel like this individual ought to participate or ought to resign" from the board, "because we can't take care of the business of the hospital if we can't sit down at the same table and talk."

Clark said it takes "working together" to have a positive bottom line in today's dicey hospital economy, and "what do you think is going to happen to our hospital if we can't even have a meeting? It becomes pretty clear that we're setting the stage for a disaster."

Clark said that the medical staff wants the city council to "have another look at how the [hospital] board is structured." He said there needs to be physician input into who is placed on the board of trustees. "When you have people [on the board] who have no idea of the financial constraints of the decreasing reimbursements from Medicare and Medicaid, the difficulties associated with taking care of a high-poverty-rate population, and the high no-pay rate, and all the things that go with that, it makes it very difficult to move forward, to be progressive, and to be successful."

Ward 6 councilman and State Senator David Jordan expressed concern that the hospital must remain viable to serve the community, and that refusing to meet with the staff needed to be looked into.

Ward 5 councilman Andrew Powell wanted to take the discussion into executive session, but there was no support for his suggestion amongst the other members.

Mayor Carolyn McAdams stated that, because of the rumors circulating, and because the hospital is a public entity, the discussion needed to be held in public. "We need to be open and face the music. Everybody needs to know what we're up against."

McAdams stated that she had spoken to the city appointee (Sammy Foster, who she did not identify by name) who is refusing to meet with the doctors, urging him to participate at the meetings.

McAdams suggested the council needs to look into restructuring how the hospital board is set up. She said she is concerned that the city has fewer representatives on the hospital board than the county, even though it has an equal share in ownership. She said that the hospital board should have a physician member.

Ward 1 councilman Johnny Jennings, who chaired the council meeting in the absence of Ronnie Stevenson, opined that the issue is the exclusion of the doctors from input into hospital board decisions.

Ward 4 councilman Charles McCoy asked whether this was a new issue, or had it been going on, since this was the first time he had heard anything about it. Dr. Clark replied that there had been times in the past when the medical staff was excluded, but that these matters ought to be out in the open.

"If there's a hidden agenda, or reason for doing something that's not in the best interests of the institution or the citizenry, people should know," Clark warned.

McCoy stressed the fact that the functioning and management of the hospital are of vital interest to potential businesses looking to locate in Greenwood.

Senator Jordan stated the hospital has "got problems, and we need to know the nature of them, ...because you've got to make some revisions out there, you've got to make some changes in many areas. And in order to make those changes, you've got to have a cohesive board, a board that understands and [will] work with you. That's the basics, in order to get anything done.... The hospital is a necessity, and we have to get to the bottom of it and get things rolling in the right direction."

The Council suggested that the physicians come back with concrete proposals for moving forward, and Dr. Clark assured the members that the medical staff would.

Left unsaid at the meeting, are rumors circulating that a faction of the Board of Supervisors and the Hospital Trustees are interested in selling the hospital, and are very upset that the consulting firm told them a month ago that it is only worth $15 million in today's medical economic climate.

For complete coverage of these and other hospital milestones, please go here: Taxpayers Channel coverage of Greenwood Leflore Hospital's downfall.

John Pittman Hey
The Taxpayers Channel

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