At the Thursday, January 24th meeting of the Board of Directors for Mendocino Coast District Hospital, Bob Edwards was removed from his position as Chief Executive Officer (CEO).
In closed session the board voted 3-1 to remove Edwards from his post. One board member abstained from the vote. Logical conjecture would point toward former Board President Steve Lund as the lone dissenting vote. Lund is a co-defendant with Edwards in an ongoing federal lawsuit filed by a former human resources officer at the hospital. The three votes to fire Edwards came from board members elected in November, 2018.
The MCDH Board invoked an “at will” section of Edwards' contract. He will receive a little more than one year's salary as part of that “at will” agreement. Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Mike Ellis will take over CEO duties as well as his own for an interim period during which the Hospital’s Board will search for a successor to fill the position.
Certainly, one of the votes for the dismissal of Edwards came from new board member Amy McColley. Her motivations might be numerous, but we need look back no further than the opening minutes of the January 3rd special board meeting. That meeting that was noticed to dozens of members of the public three days in advance via email from the CEO's office. Board members usually receive the agenda for such meetings several days, if not a week or two, earlier. However, during the Jan. 4rd open session, McColley alleged that CEO Edwards deliberately kept her in the dark about the meeting.
After the meeting McColley stated that she only found out about the meeting because she happened to have seen a fellow board member while shopping. In the open session, Edwards seemed to hem and haw after McColley's statement. He muttered something about a Brown Act violation.
On January 4th, McColley said she found out about the meeting on December 28th. She went on to state, “However, it was scheduled and communicated with the BODs [other members of the Board of Directors] on 12/18. I was never polled on my availability and Bob’s intention was always to exclude me from this [meeting].
“I called BBK [ the hospital's law firm] attorney on 12/28 and finally was told at [1pm on January 3rd] to go to the meeting. No one wanted to acknowledge Bob’s egregious behavior.
“I was sworn in on 12/26 and Gayl [Bob Edwards' administrative assistant] asked me in front of Bob if I was coming up for the meeting on 1/3. He corrected Gayl, [saying] 1/10. Next day, 12/27, Karen [fellow board member Karen Arnold] asked me if I was coming to the 1/3 meeting... I met with Bob on 12/28. He didn’t know how to handle the 'special circumstance' and he thought not inviting me was best.”
At that January 3rd board meeting Edwards made no attempt to deny the gist of McColley's allegation that he had deliberately failed to notice her. Edwards' motivation seemed to lie in the fact that McColley was a long time employee of the hospital who resigned her position at or near the time that a disagreement between then Chief Human Resources Officer Ellen Hardin and hospital administration reached a boiling point. McColley went on to work for hospitals in the Bay Area awhile before returning to Fort Bragg.
Want another reason why Edwards had to go?
In late October a Planning Committee agenda was emailed to several dozen citizens. Amid the background information section of that agenda was a fully charted out survey performed for MCDH by Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS). The survey concerned patients' responses to a number of questions about the service provided by the hospital staff. In general, the HCAHPS survey results showed a fairly significant drop in approval ratings over the first three quarters of 2018 (Jan. through Sept.).
There was nothing in the survey that violated HIPAA privacy rules. It merely contained a series of color coded averages in chart form. However, a couple of days after the release of the survey in the Hospital’s planning committee agenda packet, Edwards sent out an email to the recipients stating, “Please remove and destroy this document.”
That pretty much sums up Bob Edwards' need to control everything around him. He demanded that members of the public destroy the record of a survey taken regarding the care of fellow members of the public. A survey paid for by public tax dollars.
Bob Edwards' tenure as CEO ran three years and nine months. Readers interested in more reasons Edwards had to leave the building can tap into the archives of the online AVA.
Edwards firing is a significant step in the right direction, but this new board of directors is still faced with a hospital teetering on the edge financially, even after the passage of a parcel tax that should bring in an extra $1.7 million annually. MCDH currently has a debt service coverage ratio (net operating income divided by total debt service) of -1.41. That's negative 1.41 as opposed to a required positive 1.25 ratio. The entity that holds the bag for guaranteeing the hospital's debt makes that requirement. That entity is Cal Mortgage (the state-run program that provides credit for healthcare facilities), which owns about 60% of MCDH's overall debt. Because of that negative debt service covenant Cal Mortgage has the right to step in and take over financial management of the Coast Hospital. Right now, if it so chooses.
The passage of the parcel tax last June probably provided the tipping point in favor of Cal Mortgage granting a waiver to allow MCDH to go on governing itself for the time being. This is just one example of why there's much more to be done beyond getting rid of Bob Edwards.