The territorial hospital board on Friday approved Friday a one-year, $200,000 contract for Wanda Ruben as chief executive officer of the Juan F. Luis Memorial Hospital.
Ruben was appointed to the position two weeks ago by the JFL governing board, after taking over as chief nursing officer in July.
The board questioned Ruben and discussed her qualifications for a little more than an hour before voting to approve the St. Croix native to run St. Croix’s only hospital.
Nellon Bowry, territorial board chairman, said a longer meeting will be scheduled soon, but did not set a date, to discuss the status of the Virgin Islands hospitals in the wake of two September hurricanes.
Born on St. Croix, Ruben returned to the island after serving as chief nursing officer at Garden Gove Hospital Medical Center in California. She started her career as a registered nurse in a pediatric intensive care unit and also worked as an emergency room nurse.
She told the Source she has always wanted to return to St. Croix to work.
“I never called California home. I was always hoping to come home and participate in the community and health care services. I want to bring my customers back – my Virgin Islanders back,” she said.
During a recent Senate hearing, Ruben and Sen. Nereida Rivera O’Reilly acknowledged they are related.
Agreeing with Gov. Kenneth Mapp that a smaller hospital might be appropriate for St. Croix, depending on census studies, Ruben said more services will be added at the new JFL. She plans to partner with home health care agencies, pharmacies, hospice groups and others.
As a result of Hurricane Maria and previous structural issues, JFL eventually will be demolished, but Ruben said the hospital has not been condemned. Currently, services are located on the first floor of the existing facility and the adjoining V.I. Cardiac Center.
Radiology, mammography, postpartum, labor and delivery, neonatal intensive care, intensive care, an operating room and two rooms in the emergency room are functioning and 25 beds are being used in VICC.
Ruben said dialysis patients will only be cared for on an emergency basis. But, she hopes the unit will reopen during phase two of constructing a mobile hospital by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The project should be completed in December, she said.
JFL has seen a number of CEO’s in recent years. Attorney Richard Evangelista served, most recently, as interim head for a little over a year after Ken Okolo was removed in May 2016. Okolo served only six months and replaced Dr. Kendall Griffin who returned to private practice.
Board members attending Friday’s meeting were Bowry, Finance Commissioner Valdamier Collens, Health Commissioner Michele Davis, Troy de Chabert-Schuster, Maria Tankenson-Hodge, Dr. Margaret Sprauve, Dr. Olivine Anne Treasure, Veru Falu and Nelda Coombs-Ephraim.