The Greenwood Leflore Hospital Board Tuesday took on the question of whether it should respond to critical letters to the editor published in the Commonwealth or ignore them.

Interim CEO Subho Basu said the board had asked hospital stakeholders, such as the physicians council, to voice their opinions on what to do about letters to the editor written by people “showing the hospital in a negative light.”

As longtime physicians have been removed from their positions at the hospital, letters from people in the community have appeared in the Commonwealth and elsewhere praising the doctors’ past work and questioning the decision to fire them or allow them to go work for nearby hospitals.

Most recently, Dr. John Hey, in a letter published in the Commonwealth this past weekend, accused the hospital board and administration of mismanagement. Hey’s contract with the hospital was terminated in the past year.

Basu opened the matter for discussion among the board members and administrators by noting he had heard opinions questioning whether it was wise to call more attention to criticism by responding.

“I have personally spoken to a physician about it and asked, ‘What are we going to do?’” said Key Britt, vice president of administrative services. “And he said, ‘You don’t do anything because that person ... they want you to respond. And no one pays attention to that person. The more you respond, the more they’re going to come back. And it’s going to be a back and forth.’”

Board Chairman Sammy Foster said it was better to respond: “To me you send one letter, and that will be it,” he said. “Let that person do what they want to do after that, but you need to make a response.”

“You can’t stop them, but I’m just saying we should have a (public relations) person to respond to certain type of (letters) that are sent to the paper that are negative about the hospital, especially when it’s not true,” Foster said. “When you just sit back, when you don’t respond to something ... they say, ‘OK, this is true.’”

Hospital Chief of Staff Ray Girnys said a response by an individual could be viewed as a personal attack on the letter writer. He suggested a PR person representing the institution answer the letters.

Board member Marcus Banks said the board had discussed hiring a public relations firm, but Foster said the hospital could identify an employee to write the letters in response to the criticism.

“We’ve never had that,” he said. “We just sit back and several times things that were untrue in the paper that’s been said. Somebody said we got rid of five doctors, and it wasn’t true. No truth to that. I called you all and told you that.

“So we need to correct some things that people just saying because they’re upset because their playhouse has been torn down,” Foster said. “... They’re not getting their way anymore.”

The board moved to other matters without a decision on the question.

In other business:

• The board heard from a consultant it had hired to assess the hospital’s process in filing claims and collecting on accounts receivable. Janice Swan of Windham Brannon acknowledged she’d only been at the hospital for a couple of weeks but estimated improvements to processes could save the hospital $1.5 million to $3.5 million.

• Board members responded to a Leflore County Board of Supervisors’ request that it appear before a joint meeting of the supervisors and the Greenwood City Council to explain its plan for turning around the hospital’s finances.

“We don’t have a problem meeting with them,” Foster said. He indicated the board had met in the past with the city and the county individually and as a group.

On Monday, District 1 Supervisor Sam Abraham complained that the board of the publicly owned hospital was not providing feedback on its plan for a financial turnaround. The hospital lost almost $37 million over the previous three years and $1.3 million so far in the first four months of the current fiscal year.

The joint meeting is expected in the next few weeks.

Contact Gavin Maliska at 581-7235 or gmaliska@gwcommonwealth.com.

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