2nd no-confidence vote at Arkansas hospital targets CEO

Members of the Medical Center of South Arkansas general medical staff have taken a second no-confidence vote in the El Dorado-based hospital's leadership, specifically calling out CEO Scott Street, according to the News-Times.

The Aug. 12 vote came after physicians also voted to maintain the contract with SCP Health, an emergency room and hospitalist staffing company the hospital plans to end its relationship with later in the fall, Vicki Gilliam, an attorney representing 11 medical center physicians, told Becker's.

She said 12 physicians voted "no confidence" in Mr. Street, while three physicians in the room abstained from voting. Four of the 15 physicians who participated in the vote are SCP employees. 

"My clients report that the doctors on the medical staff believe that this [decision to end the SCP contract] was a retaliatory effort by CEO Scott Street aimed to undermine those particular physicians who are SCP employees for being vocal regarding his leadership style … a style which they believe has created a toxic work environment, resulted in poor quality of care to patients, and very low morale to employees," said Ms. Gilliam.

Alex Bennett, executive director of business development for Medical Center of South Arkansas, told Becker's the hospital is aware that approximately 15 of the hospital's more than 80 medical staff members met Aug. 12.

"Some in attendance participated in the vote while others present chose to abstain. Our efforts to enhance care and improve the hospital operations are ongoing, and we continue to engage in constructive discussions with our employees and medical members about the path forward," she said.

Regarding SCP Health, Ms. Bennett said the hospital has been considering and working toward replacing this group since the beginning of 2021, and any characterizations that the decision was retaliatory are false.

"This was an operational and business decision that we believe is in the best interest of the hospital. We hope that any SCP employee who wants to continue to practice at MCSA will continue to do so through the new vendor," she said.

The Aug. 12 no-confidence vote is the second one taken by physicians in recent months. Ezinne Nwude, MD, chief of staff at the Medical Center of South Arkansas, confirmed to the News-Times that some members of the medical staff voted no confidence in the hospital's leadership May 27. That vote included Mr. Street, who became CEO of Medical Center of South Arkansas in 2017 after serving as CEO of Nacogdoches (Texas) Memorial Hospital. Ms. Gilliam said the May 27 vote also included other administrators such as Chief Nursing Officer Amy Triplet, RN.

A letter about the May 27 vote was sent to the Medical Center of South Arkansas board of trustees. The hospital's owner, Franklin, Tenn.-based Community Health Systems, was also notified of the vote, and the hospital brought in an independent counsel, Nashville, Tenn.-based law firm Bass, Berry and Sims, to investigate the concerns.

On July 30, Mr. Street notified staff that the investigation was completed and that the Medical Center of South Arkansas board of trustees voted to request a new administrative structure. 

"In the weeks ahead, we will be discussing what that means about how our administrative team is structured and operating," the memo stated, according to the News-Times. "What I mostly want you to hear from me today is that I am very appreciative of the quality of care you provide for our patients and the service this hospital provides for our community. We will continue to work together to ensure the best care and patient experience we can offer."  

Rebecca Pitt, a CHS spokesperson, told Becker's Aug. 9 that a small team of CHS operational and clinical leaders in El Dorado were meeting with medical staff members, managers and employees as a complement to the hospital's existing efforts. 

"This is not unusual — with our scale, we regularly provide resources to support our affiliated hospitals," she said. "Community Health Systems is committed to hearing feedback and to discussing opportunities that will benefit the hospital's patients and enhance our service to the community."

Then on Aug. 9, Mr. Street announced to staff the hospital's plans to end its relationship with SCP Health, and at the same time, told staff Ms. Triplet had resigned, Chief Quality Officer Danna Wagnon Taylor was promoted to associate administrator, and several interim nursing and quality leaders would be starting at the hospital, according to the News-Times.

Ms. Gilliam said her clients will now wait and get a response from CHS, which has been informed of the second no-confidence vote.

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