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Doctors’ influence at heart of hospital struggle

Chief of staff says recent decision isolates medical personnel; board defends move as standard

Posted: February 25, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: February 25, 2011 1:55 a.m.
 

A change in the makeup of voting members on the Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital board of directors has raised complaints from doctors, while directors defended the move as bringing the board into compliance with corporate structure.

In December, the hospital’s Governance Committee recommended the board of directors eliminate the “ex officio” board position held by the deputy chief of staff, a doctor who also sits on the Medical Executive Committee, which represents the doctors.

The bylaw change was approved, making the deputy chief of staff a valued adviser of the board, but not a voting member, directors said.

Doctors delivered a vote of no confidence in January to their bosses, including the hospital president and its board of directors.

In a certified letter sent Wednesday to hospital president and Chief Executive Officer Roger E. Seaver, copies of which were also sent to The Signal, the hospital’s chief of staff, Dr. Frank M. Yusuf, wants it known that significant changes to board structure affect the collective voice of the medical staff.

Yusuf, who heads the 11-doctor Medical Executive Committee at the hospital, said his staff is concerned about its “increasing isolation and exclusion from hospital decision-making.”

He adds: “The truth with respect to this specific issue is of paramount and critical importance.”

He also challenged a previous Signal story inaccurately stating no one had been removed from the board when, in fact, the “ex officio” position was eliminated.

In his letter, Yusuf explained that removing the position removes the person’s vote, saying: “The effect of the elimination ... is precisely the removal of the deputy chief of staff from the board.”

Since the bylaw was passed and the modifications made to the makeup of the board, the person who occupied that seat no longer has a vote, although he or she is still welcome to attend board meetings and offer opinions, James D. Hicken, president of the board, told The Signal Thursday.

The person who currently occupies the position is Dr. Greg Jenkins, the hospital’s deputy chief of staff.

The board position he represented was eliminated “as a way to reduce the number of ‘interested parties’ on the board,” hospital spokeswoman Andie Bogdan said this week.

Bogdan noted in her explanation of the board’s shifting profile: “The deputy chief of staff is still a real position that exists as a position on the Medical Executive Committee (MEC) — the position is not gone from existence.

“That position is a key position on the Medical Executive Committee (MEC) and is still invited to attend hospital board meetings.”

Jenkins relayed information Thursday to The Signal through his assistant, who did not want to be named, that all official comment from medical staff is to come from Dr. Gene Dorio.

Dorio could not be reached for comment Thursday.

For board members, eliminating the position as a voting board member made sense, particularly when it looked at the operation of other hospitals, Hicken said.

“Having the deputy chief of staff as a voting board member was very unusual,” Hicken said Thursday. “And, if you look at corporate governance across the country in terms of hospitals — I’m not going to say it doesn’t exist — but it is very unusual that that position would be a voting board member.”

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