Feb. 15, 2005 I want to assure the residents of St. John that Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center — the island's only health care center — remains a top priority for this administration and the St. Thomas-St. John Governing Board. We have worked too hard to achieve accreditation for both the Roy L. Schneider Hospital and the Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center (MKS) to go back to days where St. John was neglected. Within the last three years, we have brought new diagnostic tools, computerized records, and a new library and modern teleconferencing to this vital facility in Cruz Bay.
Yes, MKS is in transition. We have begun a vigorous search for a qualified administrator to run this critical institution. My decision to terminate the former administrator was not made lightly or in haste, but in close consultation with our Governing Board. In the end, it was my decision to make because I am the person accountable and responsible for the management and direction of this institution – not Julien Harley. In fact, it is simply not true, as Mr. Harley claims, that "the advisory board at Myrah Keating Smith was never informed." I personally called the board chair that weekend informing her of my decision and then met with the board on Feb. 3rd to discuss the situation as well as the future of MKS. Mr. Harley was not even present at this meeting! Had he come to that meeting, he would have known the reasons why Ms. McDonald was terminated. He would also have known that Ms. McDonald was given a choice and an opportunity to resign with appropriate benefits, but declined.
In fact, Mr. Harley has never called me or met with me about this matter, but finds it necessary to cite hearsay and second-hand administrative information in a public letter. This type of activity is very irresponsible for such a high-ranking government official.
I find it interesting that Mr. Harley is suddenly so concerned about the loss of one employee at MKS, when MKS lost more than 20 critical positions over the last three years as a result of budget cuts from the administration he is part of. These reductions severely impacted the delivery of key healthcare services to the people of St. John. Where was the administrator when MKS suffered a 40 percent reduction in its allotment? Where was the administrator when the Department of Health took another 10 positions from MKS in 2004? Where was the administrator when MKS's fiscal year 2005 budget was slashed along with RLSH? I tell you where he was – serving in the Governor's Administration not saying one word to save these positions.
So I find it interesting that now Mr. Harley – who serves on the MKS Advisory Board – finds it necessary to talk at length about the loss of one employee from MKS. Why is the welfare of one individual more important than the entire community of St. John? Why is the loss of one employee more important to Mr. Harley than the cumulative loss of several employees and critical positions at MKS over the last three years?
Mr. Harley is critical of MKS Critical Care Coordinator taking a month of her own personal time in assisting the international disaster relief effort in Asia (yes, Administrator Harley, the earthquake/tsunami occurred in Indonesia, too). "Meanwhile, the critical care coordinator…duties were done by the administrator" at MKS, he wrote. What he fails to mention is that the Critical Care Coordinator left the territory on Jan. 26 and Ms. McDonald was terminated on Jan. 28.
Mr. Harley talks at length about the materials management situation at MKS. It's simply untrue to say that RLSH "cannot and sometimes is unable to meet the needs of Myrah Keating." We have a large materials management department at RLSH which supplies the needs of Myrah Keating. It's much more efficient for MKS to purchase equipment and supplies in bulk through RLSH than on its own. The supply situation at MKS will continue to improve, with staff procuring their needed supplies with the assistance of the RLSH Materials Management division.
Mr. Harley claims that MKS is "in jeopardy" and "will deteriorate." Yes, cash collections are down at MKS, and part of the problem is that we need to improve our accounting for finances. With $1.5 million in accounts receivable, it takes MKS on average over 600 days to collect a patient bill. That will change. I want to make it clear that the Roy L. Schneider Hospital will continue to subsidize MKS because it is part of our healthcare system for the territory – along with the upcoming Charlotte Kimelman Cancer Institute. We know the problems at MKS, and we are the ones held responsible for its failure or success. But it is part of our very important social contract with the residents of St. John.
Mr. Harley claims that MKS will "revert back to the old system." What "old system" is he referring to? MKS will continue to pay its vendors as it has been doing since semi-autonomy in the framework of an integrated financial management system.
To conclude, we have not "messed up a good thing" for St. John – it is Administrator Harley who is "messing up" with his unfounded, emotional, and outlandish allegations.
The entire Schneider healthcare system – the Roy Lester Schneider Hospital, Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center, and Charlotte Kimelman Cancer Institute, is one regional healthcare system that stands together, not apart. All our management and staff work together as a team, because only as a team can we survive the awesome challenges and tremendous responsibility we have to the St. Thomas and St. John communities. Wake up Administrator Harley – MKS is moving forward – with or without you!
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