California hospital chair speaks out after CEO, CFO resign; clinicians still skeptical

The chair of El Centro (Calif.) Regional Medical Center's board of trustees has spoken out after the resignation of its acting CEO and CFO on Jan. 14. 

Nashville, Tenn.-based consulting firm Healthcare Management Partners was managing the hospital when it issued a termination notice, effective Jan. 29. The firm's managing directors, Scott Phillips and Derek Pierce, were serving as CEO and CFO, respectively; both stepped down once the board accepted the notice.

Tomás Oliva — chair of the hospital's board of trustees and a councilmember for the city of El Centro — denied rumors that the hospital is bankrupt, conducting layoffs, or being leased, sold or closed in a Jan. 20 interview with Imperial Valley Press

Mr. Oliva said the hospital is struggling financially, and it cut its maternal and child health inpatient services earlier this month in an attempt to alleviate those pressures. Mr. Phillips "strongly assured" him that every affected nurse was offered a position elsewhere, Mr. Oliva said. 

But nurses still fear for their jobs, the Press reported. 

"The nurses are scared," Graciela Palacios, an intensive care unit nurse, said at a Jan. 18 ECRMC board of trustees meeting. "We don't talk anymore unless it's about what is going to happen to our jobs.”

"I will believe Oliva when he provides me something in writing that my job and pension is safe," she told the newspaper. 

Hussein El-Newihi, MD, a gastroenterologist at the hospital, also expressed his discontent in a Jan. 23 guest column for the Press

"Your decisions, including the removal of Dr. Adolphe Edward, our hospital CEO, and installing of the CPA representing the bond holders as an interim CEO have resulted in a series of hastily made decisions with very serious consequences," Dr. El-Newihi wrote to the city council. "The closures of two hospital departments with elimination of inpatient healthcare to the two most vulnerable constituents of the society, women and children, is abhorrent." 

"We are aware of the debt the hospital and city has to deal with, but the solutions have to be acceptable to your constituents and should not be taken without any involvement of the healthcare providers," Dr. El-Newihi continued. 

Mr. Oliva told the Press the hospital could possibly merge with Pioneers Memorial Hospital in Brawley, Calif., but the two entities are still early in conversations. More information is expected at a press conference this week.

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