To the Editor:
The wonderful staff and caregivers at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital (MVH) treat their patients well: Scores of heartfelt letters over the years attest to that. Clearly, residents and visitors to Martha’s Vineyard hold the hospital in high esteem. However, the MVH leadership has also had a history of being consistently unresponsive to the community. The willfully blind, entirely tone-deaf decision regarding the termination of Joe Woodin is only the latest, most glaring example.
Board chairman Tim Sweet cites a “widening difference between the vision of the board and the ideas and leadership style of the hospital’s top executive regarding the right direction and path for the hospital” as the core reason for this decision. I have to believe that the hospital administration we had known in the past was fully congruent with the vision of the current board.
The sense of relief and excitement in the community when Joe Woodin came on was hard to miss. Here was an immediate change in tone and style, and the community welcomed it with optimism and confidence about good work to come. Even people who disagreed with decisions taken (Wildflower Court) felt that they could work with this man, and above all, we felt that he was keenly interested in getting to know the community and meeting us halfway in bringing his vision for our hospital to the table. It was precisely his “ideas and leadership style” that the community responded to so strongly. And so it appears undeniable that the vision of the current board is badly out of step with the vision of the community for our hospital.
I agree with the board’s statement that “losing the confidence of the board is something you can’t get back.” As reported in The MV Times in an interview with hospital board chairman Tim Sweet, he apparently feels that “the way things went down damaged the reputation of the hospital and the people who work there.” I beg to differ: Their reputation is intact. It is the reputation of the hospital board that has been damaged, very likely beyond repair. Worse yet, the board seems entirely oblivious to having definitively lost the confidence of the community. It won’t be getting that back, either.
So I would appeal to the board: Please do not be hampered in choosing your next move by an attempt to save face — that is no longer an option for you. Regardless of which path you choose — doubling down, ignoring it and hoping it goes away, even apologies and admissions of things “done badly” — for this board, saving face is no longer possible.
But you can act to contain the damage you have done to your relations with the community and to the functioning of the hospital itself. You can invite your chairman to sign a letter of resignation, effective immediately. You can fast-track your board’s term limits, and immediately bring in some new members with a clear commitment to representing the community served by the hospital. Last but not least, you can immediately reinstate Joe Woodin as hospital CEO, and let us only hope that he has the grace and stature to accept this.