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Fulton Co. residents seek ouster of medical center CEO

July 21, 2006|by JENNIFER FITCH

McCONNELLSBURG, Pa. - There was a storm brewing in McConnellsburg on Thursday night long before the first clap of thunder.

Approximately 200 people gathered in a room at the public library to discuss concerns they have with the Fulton County (Pa.) Medical Center, all the while acknowledging they are proud to have the health care provider in their area.

Local residents and businesspeople signed petitions calling for the medical center's board of directors to oust CEO Diane J. Palmer from her position just weeks after several physicians publicly requested the same move.

Palmer is chairwoman of the 14-member board.

"No one has come into my office" to discuss concerns, Palmer said Thursday before the meeting. She said she had been made aware of the meeting through an "anonymous letter."

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"We've gotten no issues, concerns, anything submitted to us," said Misty Hershey, the center's marketing director.

Stanley Kerlin of McConnellsburg expressed doubt Thursday night that Palmer has the educational background and the previous experience to be in the position.

The crowd that met while rain pummeled the county planned to submit its petitions at Monday's meeting of the medical center's board.

Palmer said the board's agenda is full for Monday's meeting, but the citizens could follow a procedure to address it in the future. That would entail creating a list of people presenting testimony, summarizing the presentation and setting a time limit, she said.

That time limit would typically be 30 to 45 minutes, Palmer said.

"We would be pleased to consider it for September," she said.

The CEO's position became vacant in December 2004. Instead of searching for a person to fill that spot, the board approved Palmer to serve as CEO during the construction of a $37 million facility off Peach Orchard Road, Palmer said.

While in talks about bonding for that project this spring, the Fulton Industrial Development Association identified remedial action it deemed necessary and contacted each board member with a letter, said Donald Bard, a member of the association.

He and several others expressed discontent with the disbanding of a public membership program, highlighting that the board now selects its own members without citizen input. The medical center continued to solicit memberships, while not informing residents they do not have voting rights, they said.

Employees have claimed they don't have an outlet to voice concerns and are in constant fear for their jobs, citizens said.

The board focuses on policy, procedures and vision; it does not handle matters concerning the 370 employees, Palmer said.

"They don't get involved in the day-to-day operations at all," she said.

Two members of the medical center's board of directors attended the citizens meeting.

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