Physicians call for removal of NCH Healthcare System CEO Allen Weiss
Dr. Allen Weiss, president and chief executive officer of the NCH Healthcare System, discusses results of a pilot study at select units in NCH hospitals at a community forum Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018. Liz Freeman, firstname.lastname@example.org; 239-263-4778
Physicians with the NCH Healthcare System have voted to recommend the removal of Dr. Allen Weiss, president and chief executive officer of the NCH Healthcare System, according to medical staff leaders.
Of the more than 160 active physicians with NCH who voted Thursday night, 98 percent cast “no confidence” votes against Weiss and recommended the NCH board of trustees remove him immediately from the CEO position, said Dr. Ron Garry, subsection chief of geriatrics. Weiss has been CEO since 2006.
A similar “no confidence” vote and recommendation was made to remove Chief of Staff Kevin Cooper, he said.
An emergency meeting of the medical staff was held Thursday evening and is thought to have drawn the highest turnout in NCH history, Garry said.
More than 330 physicians are active on the NCH staff and were eligible to vote because they consult with or admit patients, Garry said.
The outcome sends a strong signal to the NCH board about what needs to be done to get the Naples-area hospital system back on track, he said. The top management has faced outcry over a pilot project in which employed hospitalists are put in charge of admitting more patients and overseeing their care.
“NCH did everything in their power to limit attendance, including removing all fliers from the hospital and calling physicians to tell them not to attend,” Garry said in a letter Friday to the NCH board.
“Despite that, we had the largest attendance at a medical staff meeting in the 62 years that NCH has been in existence,” he said. “It is time for the Board of Trustees to end this, restore dignity to NCH and the community, and ensure that NCH is headed in the right direction.”
Mariann MacDonald, chairwoman of the NCH board, said in a statement:
“The NCH Board has not received any official notification of any vote that occurred (Thursday) night at the physician meeting that has been reported in the media. Nothing has changed. As the Board said in its message to the community on January 11: 'The management team and staff at NCH have the full support of the Board. The Board is proud of the accomplishments of our employees and their passionate commitment to quality.' ”
There has been extensive outcry from area residents who are angry that their relationships with their independent primary-care physicians or concierge physicians will be disrupted by the hospitalist project.
In addition, the Collier County Commission and Naples City Council sent letters to NCH asking that further rollout of the project be delayed so it and its outcomes could be evaluated.
Similar letters have been sent by the Florida Medical Association, the Florida Osteopathic Medical Association, Florida Geriatric Society and the Collier County Medical Society.
If the NCH board does not remove Weiss and Cooper at its meeting Wednesday, Jan. 23, the next step is a lawsuit, Garry said.
Dr. Cesar De Leon, who serves on the medical executive committee, said in a statement that physicians spoke with one strong voice that should not be ignored by the board.
“It is no longer about what the trustees think about Dr. Weiss, but about the lack of trust from his physicians, that as we all know can never be restored,” De Leon said. “No leader can ever lead when there is nobody that wants to follow. To lead by fear, intimidation, and retaliation is not the way that any leader should ever attempt to accomplish his or her objectives.”
No input was sought by the medical staff last year when the pilot project was started, and the intent to expand was clear in a presentation Weiss made to the NCH foundation Oct. 17, according to Garry’s letter.
An Oct. 22 email sent from Miriam Ross, director of development at NCH, to supporters said the hospitalist project replicates the way the Mayo Clinic handles inpatient care and that following the Mayo’s lead is positive for patients.
“We are implementing this style of care throughout the entire NCH system over the next two years,” her email said.
In December, NCH officials held two public forums where the pilot project was explained, and residents asked questions of Weiss and top managers. The two sessions did little to calm concerns that the pilot project on three units at NCH hospitals will be expanded systemwide and that independent physicians would be shut out of caring for their hospitalized patients.
Many residents and doctors expressed fears that NCH’s end goal is a closed medical staff, though Weiss frequently has said that is not the intent.
The NCH board said in a Jan. 11 statement that it has not voted to expand, contract or terminate the pilot project and that the performance data on the three units where the pilot program operates will continue to be evaluated.
“Physicians can still admit and direct the care of their patients on the other units,” the Jan. 11 statement said. “Patients can choose to be admitted to non-pilot floors and are in no way being denied the right to be treated by their personal physicians. We are committed to achieving the best patient outcomes by seeking input from all stakeholders in the community.”
Bob Stucker, who resigned last fall from the NCH’s foundation committee, said Friday the physician vote was overseen and certified by Naples City Councilman Terry Hutchison.
The board needs to take responsibility or face losing many physicians who will go elsewhere, he said.
“It’s an overwhelming declaration of the medical staff they’ve got a very serious problem and have been unable for a long time to work collaboratively with management,” Stucker said. “The management ignores them, marginalizes them and intimidates them, and they don’t think that it is a healthy working relationship for any hospital to work under.”