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Wednesday’s resignation of Dr. Allen Weiss as president and chief executive officer of the NCH Healthcare System creates challenges for hospital directors to reconcile with physicians and patients after months of unrest.

There are offers from civic leaders to help, according to several community officials.

A relationship that was severed last year between Neighborhood Health Clinic and NCH was restored Thursday so low-income patients of the outpatient clinic can get surgery and other hospital-based care.

The overriding message from the Collier medical community and neighboring Lee Health is a focus on doing what’s best for Southwest Florida.

Previous coverage: NCH board accepts resignations of CEO Allen Weiss, Chief of Staff Kevin Cooper

And: NCH employees rally in support of CEO, while doctors and others protest in Cambier Park

“We understand the NCH board of trustees has a lot of planning to consider, and if they reach out to (the Collier County Medical Society), we will happily support any collaborative efforts to restore our patients’ confidence in the legacy that NCH and the community physicians have worked together to build,” Dr. Cesar De Leon, president of the medical society, said in a statement.

Dr. Larry Antonucci, president and CEO of Lee Health, sent an email Thursday to Phil Dutcher, interim CEO of NCH, to offer Lee Health’s support wherever it may be needed, according to Lee Health spokeswoman Mary Briggs.

“Dr. Antonucci and (Dutcher) served on an advisory board together in the past and have a good working relationship,” she said. “Lee Health looks forward to continuing to collaborate with NCH, and all health systems in our region, for the collective health care of everyone who lives and visits Southwest Florida.”

The NCH board of trustees met in an executive session Wednesday and unanimously accepted the resignations of Weiss and Chief of Staff Kevin Cooper.

More: Physicians call for removal of NCH Healthcare System CEO Allen Weiss

More: Seven things to know about NCH Healthcare System’s admissions policy

More: NCH recruiting hospitalists for controversial admissions plan, but they're in short supply

Both had been at the helm of a controversial pilot project where NCH-employed hospitalists were in charge of admissions and directing patient care on select hospital units. Independent physicians said the change, and expectation of a roll out throughout NCH’s two hospitals, would disrupt their relationships with patients. They believed NCH was working toward a closed medical staff.

Weiss and several of his managers held two public forums in December to address residents’ concerns about the pilot project, stating NCH was not moving to a closed medical staff and that patients could still be admitted by their private physicians. It did little to quell the controversy.

Weiss gave parting statements Thursday in his last “Straight Talk,” a weekly column to the NCH workforce and community leaders.

“I extend sincere gratitude to the thousands of dedicated NCH nurses, caregivers, support staff, medical staff, board members, and other colleagues with whom I have worked,” Weiss said.

He listed about 35 program expansions, technology upgrades, and patient care initiatives by the NCH team and said  “we have had an amazing run” through the years. Weiss began serving as president in 2000 and later became president and CEO in 2006.

He also referenced national recognitions of NCH, including its five-star rating from the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and U.S. News & World Report's accolade last week naming the NCH Baker Hospital Downtown the best in the region.

More on admissions policy: NCH sticking to hospital admissions change, plans to engage community

And: Residents urge Naples Council to send message to NCH about hospital admissions

More: New admissions policy at NCH hospitals in Collier concerns independent doctors

“NCH is at an all-time high,” Weiss said. “As I close this last ‘Straight Talk,’ my fondest hope for NCH, our community, and those I have helped to serve is longer, happier, and healthier lives for all.”

In addition to appointing interim CEO Dutcher, who was chief operations officer, the board will engage in a national search for a new CEO. Dutcher will be assisted by a transition team from current hospital leaders and the physician community.

Dutcher met Thursday with Neighborhood Clinic leaders who requested the relationship they say Weiss ended abruptly last year be restored.

“We are pleased to share the good news that Naples Community Hospital and Neighborhood Health Clinic have renewed our relationship to provide quality medical care for those in need in our community,” Nancy Lascheid, co-founder of Neighborhood, said in a statement.

"The discussion was positive and productive," Dutcher said in a statement.

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"We look forward to establishing a mutually beneficial relationship in support of those who seek services at the clinic," Dutcher said.

In a matter of hours after making a major management change, NCH has resolved a major issue impacting the community, said Joe Trachtenberg, a Naples resident who serves on the board of St. Matthew’s House, the homeless recovery program in Naples. The clinic provides care to St. Matthew’s House residents.

“It is a huge step in the right direction and demonstrates the clear intentions of the trustees and Mr. Dutcher to reach out and reconnect with the community,” Trachtenberg said.

Edward Morton, former president and CEO of the hospital system who stepped down in 2006, said he’s been approached informally by several people asking if he would be willing to help in some capacity. Morton said nothing was specific in the request.

More: Magnolia Ball, a major fundraiser for NCH Healthcare System, has been canceled

More: NCH Baker Hospital Downtown ranks 11th best in state, U.S. News & World Report says

Editorial: NCH's lofty ranking a sign of quality — and a reason to move deliberately

“I think the gravity of the situation, once it occurred, compels people to think about ways to heal and bring things (together),” he said. “I think all of us have a responsibility, if asked, to ensure our hospital is the very best it can be. I would hope we all can pull together to do what really needs to be done.”

Morton said NCH needs to maintain its status as a world-class hospital system, and the community needs to be mindful NCH is a major part of the local economy.

Physicians Regional Healthcare System, which has two hospitals in Collier, remains focused on business, according to a statement from Scott Lowe, chief executive officer.

“We are here to collaborate with physicians and serve the community,” Lowe said.

Physicians Regional in recent months had received more than 100 applications for hospital privileges from local physicians who were angry their views on the hospitalist project had gone unheeded by NCH management.

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