The audience for a closed session of Mendocino Coast Hospital's Board of Directors usually consists of Marianne McGee from Mendocino TV and yours truly. On Thursday, November 9th, fifteen or more non-press members of the public, along with a half dozen hospital staffers, waited in the lobby while the MCDH Board met for an hour and forty-five minutes. The subject at hand, another job performance review for Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Wade Sturgeon. The report out of closed session amounted to this: A continuance to Tuesday, November 14th, when the board will consider more information.
Sturgeon has come under heavy criticism throughout the year. The November 8th edition of the AVA contains a scathing rebuke of Sturgeon and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Bob Edwards by an employee who worked directly under Sturgeon. That employee as well as a number of other MCDH employees have filed harassment complaints against Sturgeon. A former Chief of Human Resources officer has filed a federal lawsuit, citing the False Claims Act, against CEO Edwards, CFO Sturgeon, MCDH Board President Steve Lund, and the hospital itself. See this writer's October 25th AVA piece for more details on the federal lawsuit.
At the conclusion of the meeting board member Peter Glusker called for an agenda item (presumably at the next MCDH Board meeting, December 7th) to consider the termination of CEO Edwards, for cause. The causes Dr. Glusker cited included the harassment of employees and ordering employees to not answer questions from the public.
In the public comments section immediately preceding Dr. Glusker's remarks, a long time coastal nurse practitioner questioned the direction the hospital is going under its current administrative leadership. Another person asked which board members were up for election in 2018 so he could vote against them. At that point board member Kitty Bruning, whose term is up at the end of 2018, emotionally stated that she would never run again for a seat on the MCDH Board.
While the nurse practitioner has attended hospital related meetings off and on in a fairly regular fashion, particularly since the potential for closure of the obstetrics (OB) department came up well over a year ago, the other comment begs the question, 'Why haven't you been paying close enough attention to know which MCDH Board members will be up for election next year?' His blanket statement, “so I can vote against all of you,” also displays a lack of knowledge in that Dr. Glusker, the lone consistent critic of Edwards and Sturgeon, is among those board members whose term will be up in 2018.
To pick on a single member of the public is a bit unfair because that man has at least attended a couple of MCDH Board meetings of late and his remarks seemed to come from a level of impassioned caring about the hospital's fate.
However, there was a distinct whiff of self-importance in the air. One could almost hear the hooves clomping down the MCDH halls toward the meeting room; the hooves beneath the riders from Mendocino Coast liberalism, coming to the rescue.
Astute readers might ask where were these concerned citizens at the beginning of this year when people like the former Human Resources Chief, the Risk Quality Manager, and Dr. Glusker were already sounding the alarm. Those concerned about a potential closing of OB were paying attention, but seemingly only to that issue while ignoring the deeper rooted questions about the administrative leadership of CEO Edwards and CFO Sturgeon.
Of course, better late than never. The longest public statement was made by Richard Miller (apparently no relation to board member Dr. Kevin Miller). In the lobby, while the closed session went on inside the hospital's Redwoods Room, Richard Miller passed around copies of a three page document. It detailed a lengthy list of concerns from a group of citizens Miller said he represented. Most of the bullet points Miller presented had already been addressed by Dr. Glusker at MCDH Board or Finance Committee meetings, written about in the AVA, or broadcast by Mendocino TV and summarized on their website.
Richard Miller's re-iterations included: The CFO reporting a fiscal year end bottom line of approximately $400,000 in the black while auditors noted a $700,000 loss for the year ending June 30th (Dr. Glusker had pointed this out a couple months back). The Director of Quality Care resigning because administration (Edwards and Sturgeon) was preventing her from properly carrying out her duties (all this was alluded to in March AVA articles and specifically stated in the AVA of June 21st).
To his credit, Richard Miller did capture the mood of many of the people who work at MCDH, “Employees frequently report they are not listened to or heard... Top leadership has apparently created or allowed a hostile work environment and demonstrated a lack of emotional intelligence.”
Miller brought up the federal lawsuit filed by the former HR Chief, but didn't bother to spell the person's surname correctly. Nevertheless, Miller's three page handout reached the same conclusion that members of the press have been promoting since the beginning of this year, if not before, the MCDH Board must rid itself of its current CEO and CFO.
If that does occur, the riders of the rescue range had also better be prepared to promote two viable candidates to replace Ms. Bruning and Dr. Miller on the MCDH Board in November of 2018.