Hospital board vows to have more community input

Trustees reaffirm vote to fire CEO Joe Woodin, and begin search for replacement.

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Former Martha's Vineyard Hospital CEO Joe Woodin has a new job as a hospital administrator in Alaska.

Updated June 28, 4:50 pm

A community group, upset with the firing of Martha’s Vineyard Hospital CEO Joe Woodin, says it has gotten a commitment from the hospital’s board to provide more community input and transparency.

Alan Brigish, whose letter to The Times (June 15, “Hospital chairman owes public answers”) created an outpouring from others upset with the firing, said he and other members of the group met with board of trustees chairman Timothy Sweet earlier this week. “They were very apologetic about how they handled things,” Mr. Brigish said.

According to Mr. Brigish, Mr. Sweet agreed to have a community member join the board of trustees’ governance panel, have a community member on the committee that will hire a consultant “to review board governance and effectiveness,” and will create a community advisory committee of 10 to 12 community members to act as a conduit between trustees and the Island community.

“At a subsequent meeting of concerned members of the community, an informal small group was formed that will meet with the board of trustees to listen to their vision for the hospital, and give voice to some of the concerns expressed at the meeting about the relationship between MVH, Massachusetts General (which effectively owns MVH), and the community,” Mr. Brigish wrote in an email.

On Wednesday, Mr. Sweet said the board welcomed the input of the community group. “At the end of the day, it’s going to be helpful,” he said. “I’d be the first to say this has been a hard process.”

The idea of getting more people from the community involved will help with transparency, Mr. Sweet said. “It was never our goal not to be transparent,” he said. “But we could do a better job moving forward, and this helps with that.”

On Saturday, the board of trustees met and reaffirmed its decision to fire Mr. Woodin as CEO and president. In a statement released Saturday afternoon, the board said it “unanimously stands by its decision.”

Mr. Woodin was fired earlier this month after a little more than a year on the job. Mr. Sweet initially attempted to get Mr. Woodin to resign, but he refused. Two days later, the board of trustees voted 13-1 to fire him.

The firing “was based first and foremost on what the board deemed to be in the best interest of the greater hospital community,” the statement reads. “To respect Mr. Woodin, we have opted not to speak publicly about the details. We know that our silence has caused the community great distress, but we believe, in the case of an individual’s employment, there is a courtesy of privacy.”

Mr. Sweet and his wife, Rachel Vanderhoop, the hospital’s community development director, initially caused confusion by issuing a misleading press release stating that Mr. Woodin “stepped down.”

Mr. Woodin, in an interview with The Times that day, made it clear he was being pushed out the door and wanted to remain in the hospital’s top job.

Reached on Saturday, he thanked the community for its overwhelming support. “We have appreciated everyone’s interest in trying to resolve this,” he said. “The support has meant a lot to me.”

At the time of his firing, Mr. Woodin said there had been no indication that there was any displeasure with his performance. In fact, he felt secure enough to purchase a house on the Island just a short distance from the hospital.

The board of trustees talked about a difference of vision. We are able to say that based on information from members of the hospital community, the board was concerned about ensuring stability, and avoiding the loss of individuals who are essential to the operations of the hospital and the delivery of care to our patients,” the statement released Saturday states. “We are pleased that our employees, who have dedicated their careers to Martha Vineyard’s Hospital, remain in place and continue to deliver the best care to our residents and our visitors.”

The Times has received more than a half-dozen letters, including from hospital staff, supporting Mr. Woodin and condemning the decision to terminate his employment.

In Saturday’s statement, which was sent out by the hospital’s interim CEO Timothy Walsh, the board acknowledges that the process caused confusion and distress. “We could have done better, and we will going forward,” the statement reads. “We owe that to everyone.”

The hospital board will turn its attention to finding a new leader for the hospital. “We will fully evaluate the person’s leadership skills and style, fit for the hospital and the community, and will seek input from the community in the selection process,” the statement read.

 

Updated with details of community group working with hospital in future.

 

5 COMMENTS

  1. The Board agreed informally he had to go. They asked him to resign. He would not, so they then went for a formal vote and made it an official termination. There is nothing suspicious. The narrative was clumsy but the process is not unusual in order to protect the employee from unwanted speculation. They had reasons for his termination but they do not want to share those reasons in order to protect the employee from embarrassment. Yes Mr Sweets wife should have stayed out of it. There was no misleading that I can see.

  2. I would add that at the meeting held by the citizen’s group last week, several specific issues were raised:
    • The role that Mass General Hospital, ‘the ‘sole member’ of Martha’s Vineyard Hospital Corporation, according to the by-laws, plays in the hospital’s governance in general and the termination of Woodin in particular;

    • The continued absence of any statement of vision by the hospital Board or Mass General Hospital, and how or why their vision differed from Mr. Woodin’s. What is the MVH Board’s vision for MVH?

    • The unanimous agreement among those attending the meeting that transparency, accountability, and responsiveness to community needs are core elements of a ‘community vision’ and appeared to be embodied in Woodin’s approach to managing the hospital;

    • The fact that our group of concerned residents did not represent all island interests, and the responsibility of the hospital board to establish a way, such as a series of community meetings, to better understand what island residents expect from their community hospital in return for support of the hospital.

    • The role that MVH and Nantucket Cottage Hospital’s ‘critical care access ‘status plays in Federal reimbursement rates for the Mass General Hospital system.

    We agreed that a smaller number of those in attendance, report the discussion and themes back to a meeting of the MVH Board, that included the Mass General ‘sole member’ of the corporation. It was further agreed that consideration of an advisory committee and other accommodations were premature, pending understanding of potential redundancy with the board and roles of the Mass General Hospital ‘sole member’. This meeting is currently being set up.

  3. Mr Brigish. The Board did not like Woodins style of management and leadership. They felt it jeapordized the attraction and retention of staff. That is it and it’s their prerogative . The community has no role in a personnel decision.

    • It helps to actually read the article to get the facts, instead of continuing to give an ignorant and ultimately wrong opinion, Mr. Engelman.

      Hope this clears things up for you:

      [“They were very apologetic about how they handled things,” Mr. Brigish said.
      According to Mr. Brigish, Mr. Sweet agreed to have a community member join the board of trustees’ governance panel, have a community member on the committee that will hire a consultant “to review board governance and effectiveness,” and will create a community advisory committee of 10 to 12 community members to act as a conduit between trustees and the Island community….
      On Wednesday, Mr. Sweet said the board welcomed the input of the community group. “At the end of the day, it’s going to be helpful,” he said. “I’d be the first to say this has been a hard process.”]

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