Washington County Hospital Employees Express Anger, Frustration To Board At September Meeting
By Alex Haglund
A number of Washington County Hospital employees, both current and past, along with supporters, came to the meeting of the WCH Board of Directors held on Tuesday, September 26, to express their concerns regarding the situation at the hospital, citing a culture of secrecy and intimidation, questioning by lawyers and low employee morale.
Julia Haege (whose letter titled “Keep WCH Thriving” was published in the September 27 edition of The Nashville News) stated to the board that the employees had come to the meeting to ask for help to “rectify the volatile work environment created by the secrecy between the board and a fellow Washington County Hospital employee.”
“For the last five months, this hospital has been living in turmoil,” Haege continued, and said that a number of employees had left the hospital to find employment at a place, “without the abundant anarchy.”
Joanie Dalman, a retired WCH employee who served at the hospital for many years, stated that she was at the meeting to support the employees, saying that, “morale here is at an all-time low…these are good people, they need to be treated better.”
Dalman stated that she knew that the board members were hard working and dedicated, evidenced by the fact that many had served for years, with no pay, and that some had even returned to the board after previously leaving it to serve the hospital again.
WCH Pharmacist Jim Lynch was more pointed in his statements to the board, saying, “I think at least some members of the Board are doing a lousy job!”
“I’m one of the people you all sent the lawyers to interrogate,” said Lynch, and stated that the lawyers were questioning he and other employees “on the same day that we were supposed to be getting ready for joint commission….we’re working our butts off, and we do know how to work, when we’re not having lawyers coming after us.”
Long-time WCH President and CEO Nancy Newby had announced her plans to retire from the hospital at the end of the year, and Lynch told the board that allowing Newby to go at a time like this would be a mistake that could cost the hospital its future.
Saying that he had worked in the corporate world in the past, Lynch stated that Newby was unique among administrators in her willingness to get her hands dirty to get the job done.
“She is not afraid to get down and do the work,” Lynch said.
Dalman shared this view of Newby.
“No matter what you think,” Dalman said of Newby, “ she’s worked very hard for years and years.”
“I’ve even heard she wipes down the walls,” Lynch stated, with others present agreeing with that, and one person present recounting that Newby would come in regularly to help in the emergency room if they were overwhelmed, even late in the evening or at other hours when a CEO typically wouldn’t be present.
Lynch suggested that the board ought to beg Newby to stay at the hospital.
“If she goes, there are going to be many more that go,” he said, “and you won’t be here much longer.”
Manier – Come To The Meetings
Board member William Manier said that he was recently contacted at his personal e-mail address, and was invited to a “so-called town hall meeting,” but stated that “this e-mail was wholly inappropriate,” saying that someone had obtained and disseminated his personal information, “in direct violation of hospital privacy policies.”
“As far as a town hall meeting is concerned, this board conducts just such a meeting on the fourth Tuesday of each month, beginning promptly at 7 p.m. I would like to personally like to invite and encourage members of this community to attend, express their concerns, recommendations, insights and observations, during the public commentary portion of the regular monthly board meeting.”
Manier said that he would not discuss hospital business, “outside of this board room,” saying that doing so would be in direct violation of the board’s bylaws. The board is required by law, Manier said, to maintain confidentiality, “on a great many matters.”
Community member Charles Braly disagreed with Manier’s statement that it was illegal for board members to talk about hospital business outside of the board meetings.
“It’s your obligation under the hospital laws and bylaws to do what is best for the community, to maintain contact with the community,” said Braly, “and, as I have been trying to get you to do for a long time, provide feedback to the community.”
“You can invite us to the meeting, but if there is no response, like there is tonight, if there are always questions going in one direction and no answers coming the other direction,” Braly told the board, “then that’s not a very well-functioning board as far as I’m concerned.”
“Simply put, you are wrong,” said Manier.
“I’m not wrong,” Braly countered.
Solutions – Board, Administration, Employees And Community Must Work Together, Or WCH Will Fail
“The tension in these walls is so thick you could cut it with a knife,” Haege told the board. “It is time the board addresses this situation before it is too late.”
Haege emphasized the importance of WCH not only for the community’s health, but for its stability and economic well-being.
“The hospital has been through many ups-and-downs through the years,” Dalman said. “You need to come up with new strategies and ideas.”
“You need to apologize to all of the hard working employees,” said Lynch, and in seeking solutions and a way to move forward, the board, “needs to work with the employees.”
“If we close, people will die,” Dalman told all those present. “By in large, this is a Christian community, and I am asking for prayers for this hospital.”