Fulton County Medical Center CEO resigns

August 17, 2006|by JENNIFER FITCH

McCONNELLSBURG, Pa. - The public and staff efforts that brought this week's resignation of Fulton County (Pa.) Medical Center CEO Diane J. Palmer brought tears to the eyes of at least one physician.

"One of the good things that came out of this was to see the people unified for the right thing to do, integrity, heart and soul," said Dr. Sharon Martin, chief of the medical staff. "They were willing to stand up and say, 'We want things to be clean.' ... That, to me, is the incredible gift of this chaos."

About 10 physicians in July asked for the resignation of Palmer, and later were joined by hundreds of residents who signed petitions to that effect. Their reasons were that she was unqualified for the job, had a conflict with her also being chairwoman of the board of directors, could not effectively lead the $37 million building project and mismanaged workers, according to a transcript of statements made to the board.


Medical center employees on Wednesday received the following memo from the marketing director:

Effective August 15, 2006 Ms. Palmer has resigned as Chairman of the Board and President & CEO. Ms. Palmer still remains on the Board of Directors. Mr. Jason Hawkins will assume the role as Interim CEO through his four week notice effective yesterday (Tuesday) as well.

The board of the Fulton County Medical Center currently is examining its options to fill the two positions of CEO and CFO.

Palmer did not return calls requesting comment.

Hawkins had widespread support in the community, which had mentioned him as a successor to Palmer.

"He wasn't even certain he had the heart to do his job well," Martin said.

Martin is looking forward to better communication with the 14-member board. The board previously met every two months, and visitors were required to be preapproved to address it.

Now, the medical staff has been promised "joint conferences" with the board, Martin said.

The citizens' group will continue to seek reinstatement of a membership program, said Howard Kaplan, who addressed the board on behalf of the public.

"We'll still be engaged in dialogue along that line," he said.

Otherwise, the public had gathered for the sole purpose of ousting Palmer, Kaplan said. The situation that had been created "wouldn't come along but once in a lifetime," he said.

"The hospital was at a crisis point," Kaplan said. The Fulton County Commissioners had supported the public at Monday's board meeting, he said.

"I'm not sure how she could have stayed in the position any longer," Kaplan said. "It was coming down from all sides."

Under Palmer's management, employees were fearful of losing their jobs, had extreme stress and were not permitted to speak against operations, Martin said.

"We have reached the bottom, and things are turning around," Martin said. "We've had our phones ringing off the hook (Wednesday) with people we don't know ... (saying) 'I'm happy to go to work today.'"

The happiness of staffers translates into better care, Martin said.

"If their energy is good, my patients heal better," she said.

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