Ascension fires 75% of DC-based Providence Health System's board

Nine of Washington, D.C.-based Providence Health System's 12 board members were abruptly fired Aug. 30, according to emails obtained by the Washington City Paper.

The move represents the latest occurrence in a monthslong ordeal involving Providence and its parent company, St. Louis-based Ascension.

On July 25, Ascension announced its intention to end acute care services at Providence by the end of 2018. Instead, the system will focus on providing services such as care coordination, telehealth, primary and urgent care, and community-based behavioral healthcare.

However, a former Providence board member told the Washington City Paper Ascension initially introduced the idea of ending acute care at Providence in a July 23 board meeting, allegedly waiting until after the regular meeting ended and after several board members had left the meeting.

The source told the publication the board adopted the resolution because they believed that though acute care services would end, the institution itself would survive. However, the source said board members soon realized the move was allegedly part of Ascension's overall plan to eventually close Providence.

Providence's board of directors sent a letter to Ascension President and CEO Anthony R. Tersigni and Patricia A. Maryland, executive vice president of Ascension and president and CEO of Ascension Healthcare, Aug. 1. The letter, obtained by the Washington City Paper, claims Providence's board of directors was "never involved in the final decision to close [Providence's] acute care services and [the] Pope Francis Emergency Care Center."

"The board was informed of the closure … less than 30 hours before Ascension's public announcement. Prior to this, the board was not consulted regarding the decision itself, the alternatives that had been considered, if any, or the timing and execution of the final decision. … Equally as clear is the perception of the board that its lack of inclusion in the final decision-making process appeared deliberate, disingenuous and in bad faith by Ascension leadership, resulting in the board's perception that their opinion was of no consequence or value," the letter reads.

During two special meetings early last month, the board introduced and passed a resolution rescinding its July approval of Ascension's plans for Providence.

The Washington City Paper reports Providence's board of directors received an email Aug. 30 notifying them that all but three of its members were fired.

"Because we understand the difficulty and pressures a local board faces when a decision is made to close a community hospital, Ascension Healthcare has made the decision to downsize and reconfigure the current Providence Hospital Board of Directors. This is consistent with our practices in other markets where we have made the decision to exit acute care. Accordingly, effective as of August 30, 2018, Ascension Healthcare has removed the current Providence Hospital Board members," the email, obtained by the publication, states.

An Ascension spokesperson confirmed to Becker's Hospital Review Sept. 4 Providence's board of directors "[had] been reconfigured."

"Providence Health System has been transforming to better align the services it provides with the evolving needs of the District of Columbia. With a focus on the future, the current board of directors has been reconfigured so that a new board of directors can advance Providence's transformation in the community.

"The new board will help guide this transformation under the same three core principles that has served as a foundation throughout this process: commitment to the mission, that Providence is not leaving the District, and that Providence will be transitioning to best serve the needs of the community.

"Providence will have an ongoing presence in the District of Columbia. The new board will focus its oversight on the collaborative work underway to create a model that will keep health at the center, remove obstacles and barriers to a healthy life for all, and better meet the needs of a changing and growing community."

To access the full report, click here.

Editor's note: This report was updated at 11:15 a.m. Sept. 4 to include comment from Ascension.

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