Martha’s Vineyard Hospital is continuing its attempt to climb out from a public relations black hole after the botched firing of CEO Joe Woodin in June.
On Tuesday, interim CEO Timothy Walsh issued an open letter to the community, in which he outlines the hospital’s strategic planning process, the search for a new CEO, and an effort by the hospital to become more engaged in social media.
Mr. Walsh told The Times this week the hospital still has not reached a settlement with Mr. Woodin, who had just finished the first year of a five-year contract with the Island hospital when he was terminated.
Timothy Sweet, chairman of the board of trustees, and his wife, Rachel Vanderhoop, the hospital’s development director, issued a press release the morning of June 5, saying Mr. Woodin had stepped down as CEO. That quickly unraveled when Mr. Woodin revealed he was being forced out and was not leaving on his own.
In the weeks since, there has been a public outcry and a petition drive seeking more clarity on the decision to remove Mr. Woodin and on the hospital’s future direction.
In his letter, Mr. Walsh seeks to reassure the community that the hospital is listening. “We’ve heard calls for greater transparency, accountability, responsiveness, and communication,” Mr. Walsh wrote. “It’s in the spirit of responding to those calls, communicating with the community we serve, that we write this week.”
Included in the letter is the announcement that the hospital has hired Stroudwater Associates, a leading national consulting firm serving healthcare clients, to work on the hospital’s strategic plan, forming working groups focused on strategic, operational, and financial issues.
“The strategic plan, now in draft form, will be the hospital’s roadmap for improving the health of our community and the efficiency of the services we render,” Mr. Walsh wrote. “With input from the community, the plan will be developed by management and the board of trustees and introduced to the community this fall.”
There is no mention on where the community could see the draft strategic plan to weigh in.
The hospital has also hired Orkiloff & Associates to study the hospital’s governance and policies.
Meanwhile, the hospital has also hired Hingham-based Phillips DiPisa, a recruiting firm, to search for a new CEO. Along with the hospital board of trustees, as well as hospital staff, Julie Fay, executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, has been appointed as a community representative on the search committee.
“We’ve worked with her in the past,” Mr. Walsh said. “I thought she would be a great candidate, especially with what is going on with the opioid crisis.”
The search committee has had two meetings, and is working with the consultant to hold a forum with a select group of community members to find out what is being sought in the next hospital chief executive.
Victor Capoccia, who has taken over as a spokesman for a community group concerned about the hospital, declined to comment on the letter before consulting with other members of the community group.
Mr. Walsh told The Times that there has been at least one highly productive meeting with Mr. Capoccia since he took over for Alan Brigish.
The hospital will also attempt to get its message out more frequently on social media. “The initial focus will be on information related to current health issues, new services, screening programs, while keeping the community informed about organizational milestones,” Mr. Walsh wrote.
Since June, Martha’s Vineyard Hospital has had an official Facebook page, where a quick scan shows it has engaged the public about hospital events and even alerted the public to a scam that includes someone sending people bogus checks that appear to come from Martha’s Vineyard Hospital.
The hospital’s social media following so far is modest by Facebook standards, with just 227 followers as of Tuesday. By contrast, Islanders Talk, where Vineyarders have had numerous discussions about the hospital over the summer, has more than 9,600 members.
“We have to get help from Partners,” Mr. Walsh said of the hospital’s social media presence. That includes help from the parent company’s public relations and information technology staff, he said.
“The Facebook thing is there now. It’s up and running, and we’re learning,” Mr. Walsh said. “We can do a lot with it.”
The hospital hopes to eventually use Twitter for outreach as well, he said.
“We remain deeply committed to our mission, and fully intend to continue our pursuit of excellence in medical care,” Mr. Walsh wrote in the letter. “On behalf of the entire hospital team and the board of trustees, we thank you for your support and look forward to working with you on strengthening the bonds that connect our hospital to our community.”