Bartlett board could tackle leadership issues tonight

The uncertainty over leadership at Bartlett Regional Hospital could be resolved tonight (Tuesday) at the regular monthly meeting of the board of directors for the city owned hospital.

The board last week held a special meeting to approve a new three-year management contract with Quorum Health Resources. The Tennessee-based company has managed day-to-day operations at Bartlett for more than two decades.

Under previous contracts the Chief Executive and Chief Financial Officers were employed by Quorum. But under this new deal, the board wanted those positions to be employees of the board.

Incoming board president Bob Storer says the move is primarily meant to provide more accountability.

“It’s not an issue related to the existing staff. It’s an issue related to structure,” says Storer. “They’re technically called ‘borrowed employees’ from Quorum. So, by hiring our own, we know they are accountable to us.”

The uncertainty arises from the fact that current CEO Shawn Morrow and CFO Garth Hamblin have non-compete clauses in their contracts with Quorum. That apparently means both are unable to seek employment outside the company for one year should they decide to break the contract. Storer says the board asked Quorum to waive the clauses, but the company declined.

“So effective February 1st, we need to seek temporary help to assist managing the hospital while we then pursue long-term employees,” Storer says.

Officials with Quorum could not be reached for comment last week.

Storer says the board has several options. That includes filling a long-vacant Chief Operating Officer position to serve as interim manager until the CEO and CFO positions can be filled.

“That is a possibility. Another possibility is we can use Quorum to assist us to bring in temporary personnel to fill the positions. They have a service that they provide at a cost. And another option is to use a head hunting firm that specializes in finding temporary employees,” Storer says.

The board’s management transition committee met last week in executive session to discuss the options. Storer expects the group to have a recommendation for the full board tonight (Tuesday).

At recent meetings, some hospital employees expressed frustration at the board’s protracted negotiations with Quorum. The board decided in August to enter into talks with the company. Storer says he wants the leadership issue resolved as soon as possible.

“It is a difficult period for everybody, because when you get done with the final decision, it affects Shawn, it affects Garth and it has some impact on all of the employees in the hospital as well,” he says.

Whatever the outcome, Storer says he’s confident the management issues won’t affect the quality of patient care at Bartlett.

The hospital board meeting is scheduled for tonight (Tuesday) at 5:15 in the hospital board room.