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Another One Bites the Dust at Coast Hospital

Dr. Bellah

At the Thursday, January 31st meeting of the Mendocino Coast District Hospital (MCDH) Board of Directors, orthopedist Jack Bellah offered an ultimatum: reinstate Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Bob Edwards or he (Bellah) would resign. The physician went on to say that he and his wife were making plans to leave the area.

Further inquiry revealed that Bellah had not offered the hospital board an official resignation. Later in the meeting, the hospital board moved, seconded, and approved replacing Bellah with Dr. Barbara Killion on the planning committee.

If I may be permitted commentary so early in a report, there is no chance that the current board of directors is going to reverse field on the dismissal of Edwards. Dr. Bellah apparently chooses to forget the history of Bob Edwards at MCDH.

The now dismissed CEO is a defendant in a federal lawsuit filed by the hospital's former chief human resources officer. Because of Edwards' and former Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Wade Sturgeon's actions the hospital still stands accused of violating the federal False Claims Act. Edwards, individually, stands accused of intentional infliction of emotional distress. Several other accusations relating to Edwards' actions are pending. The core of the allegations revolve around a former chief human resource officer's claim she complained to Edwards about possible Medicare fraud and that she was subsequently retaliated against because of raising such questions.

In the eyes of Edwards, anyone close to that former Chief Human Resource Officer (CHRO) was automatically suspect. He dismissed the CHRO's assistant, apparently because Edwards felt that person might be leaking information to the press. If there was any leak, which seems incredibly unlikely, it wasn't to the AVA. Though much farther down the chronological line (after the dismissal) I had one phone call interchange with the CHRO's assistant, I wouldn't recognize the person if we met on the street.

A few months later Edwards fired a long time Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) for what could only be described as that person being too friendly with the CHRO. As far as that CNO leaking information, the only time I asked her for a minute of her time to answer a question after a board meeting she replied brusquely, “No.” I had one semi-private conversation with her, but the only details forthcoming from that coincidental encounter amounted to information about family matters.

While he was CEO, Edwards conducted himself in a manner best summarized as paranoid tyranny. Further evidence arrived in a November, 2017, newspaper article authored by a former business office manager at MCDH. The opening line of that piece stated, “Last week I received a threatening letter from Bob Edwards.”

The article detailed workplace harassment by both Sturgeon and Edwards directed at the business office manager. Another employee went on multiple stress related medical leaves due to Edwards' behavior. Eventually the employee had enough and left for a similar job out of state.

Those kinds of stories about Edwards go on and on, right up to the last month of Edwards' tenure. At the January 3, 2019, special board of directors (BOD) meeting, new BOD member Amy McColley alleged Edwards deliberately tried to keep her from that very meeting by intentionally lying to her about the date of the meeting. Details of how this occurred are in a January 9, 2019 AVA article. After McColley's allegation in open session, Edwards offered no excuse beyond nonsensical mutterings.

Edwards acted like a bully time and time again in his three years and nine months as MCDH's CEO. His dismissal should have come sooner. The previous BOD, who enabled Edwards, with the exception of Dr. Peter Glusker, are the ones to blame for the hospital having to pay approximately $400,000 to give the old CEO the boot.

If Jack Bellah wants to continue to side with Edwards, so be it. Perhaps Bellah thinks intimidation is the way to run a hospital. Other medical facilities should be forewarned of their like-minded natures.

I believe in forgiveness, so perhaps there's a chance Edwards and/or Bellah could be better folk in a different locale. It is a little too soon to buy that scenario playing out just yet. The negative tenure of Edwards at MCDH proved all too real. At this juncture I am reminded of what a former colleague used to say when politicians of a similar bent were eventually hoisted on their own petard and sent packing, “No loss to society.”

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