Six trustees of 737-bed St. John Hospital and Medical Center in Detroit have resigned in a protest over the system board's selection of the hospital's new president.
Former hospital board chairman Edmund Brady Jr. said that as many as four more trustees may resign from the 22-seat board once media scrutiny of the incident dies down. Brady, a 17-year trustee and chairman for the past five years, resigned May 1.
Brady said he quit immediately after the St. John Health System board rejected the hospital board's decision to give acting hospital President William Leaver the job permanently. The system board instead named Tony Jones, chief operating officer of 558-bed St. Francis Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., to the post. Jones takes the reins at St. John Hospital on July 3.
The eight-hospital St. John system is an affiliate of Ascension Health in St. Louis.
Leaver, who has since left the hospital, was voted in by a secret ballot of the hospital board on April 25. The board ignored the recommendation of its own seven-member search committee, which had picked Jones. Brady said he and another trustee, retired automotive executive Michael Glusac, were the only members of the search committee who didn't make Jones their top choice. Glusac also resigned.
System board Chairman Thomas Russell accused the hospital board of overstepping its authority in picking Leaver, having been bound by governance bylaws to follow the recommendation of the search committee.
Russell said the hospital board could have commenced a new search if it wasn't satisfied with the results. He also questioned the secret voting.
The fact that Leaver is white and Jones is black also drew criticism from some community activists, although Brady and Russell denied that race played a role in the choices made by the hospital board. While 75% of Detroit's population is black, only four blacks sit on the hospital board, and three of those trustees were appointed only within the past five years. In June 1999 the system board responded to pressure from community groups by promising to appoint more minority trustees and hire more minority managers.
Governance experts say many hospital system boards have the authority to reject moves made by subordinate boards, but that disputes rarely escalate to the level of trustee resignations.
Leaver, who had been acting president since February 1999, was backed by the hospital board because he had improved the hospital's bottom line--the hospital is projected to show a surplus of $8 million for last year, according to Brady, when the previous year it had lost money--and forged relations with its medical staff, Brady said. He added that a secret ballot was conducted to reduce lobbying by outsiders.