It has to be said there’s a lot of excellence at St. Joseph’s–Candler and Memorial Health; I know because my patients benefit from that excellence every day.

Yet no hospital is as good as her boast, even Mass General. With the turmoil at the hospitals right now, we’re not achieving a hospital with a soul or world-class health care.

Both hospitals tend to get into trouble by their respective boards okaying grand visions of their CEOS, without giving enough thought to whether the grand plans are needed.

With much ballyhoo, Candler built a “cardiac institute” for about $55 million, which is now an office building without a cardiologist in it. And Memorial was prepared to build a hospital on Savannah’s westside which Memorial’s leadership admitted wasn’t necessary.

The reason hospital board members rubber-stamp empires they wouldn’t approve for their own business is they’re spending other people’s money: ours.

We’ve had cycles of performance at both hospitals. Several years ago Memorial had a misadventure having to do with a colostomy and things went south — in my opinion — because too many doctors wrote orders in the chart and the nurses had trouble figuring who was in charge.

Misadventures can occur at very fine hospitals, and it takes great attention to detail and clarity to prevent misadventures. The patient ultimately did fine and Memorial, to her great credit, instituted an excellent error prevention and detection program, definitely worthy of being boasted about.

Having supported these hospitals with its treasure, our community has been let down. Recently employees in Candler’s Radiology Department photographed a patient’s X–ray and posted it on Facebook.

When this occurs at any hospital, that hospital is out of control, which is the responsibility of the CEO and the board. “The buck stops here,” President Harry Truman said.

Two years ago Memorial brought in as CEO and president, Phillip Schaengold, to manage the health system’s debt, rung up with over–spending and uncompensated & charity care. As part of cost-saving, Mr. Schaengold addressed the expense of managing practices for 40 internists and gynecologists.  When the doctors did not give in as much as Shaengold felt the mission of the hospital required, he let the doctors go. Memorial’s board sided with the doctors and fired Schaengold for trying to do his job.

The last time physicians at Memorial went to the mat with the CEO, they lost. This time they won, but at what cost if self interest higher in the food chain, along with Shaengold’s $900,000 separation packet, causes layoffs of front line workers, the heart & soul of the hospital?

When Memorial was built her purpose was to serve those in need. I feel the hospital got off track a little.

If Memorial wants to become a world class hospital, she should bring back her clinic patients, sent down to Urban Health to wait on benches all day, and our two hospital systems ought to build a comprehensive clinic for our community’s HIV patients, so persons with the modern plague can receive the best possible care. 

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