Dr. Craig Clark at Greenwood City Council meeting

Dr. Craig Clark, chair of the Medical Executive Committee at Greenwood Leflore Hospital, tells the Greenwood City Council Tuesday about the physicians’ inability to get an audience with a majority of the hospital board.

Lauren Randall

Physicians at Greenwood Leflore Hospital say that the majority of the hospital’s board members are refusing to meet with them to discuss the doctors’ concerns about its operation and future.

They took their frustration Tuesday to the Greenwood City Council.

“The reason we are here is because we are concerned about the vitality, the viability and the long-term — if you will — status of our institution and the hospital itself, and the effect that has on the community,” said Dr. Craig Clark, a neurosurgeon and chairman of the hospital’s Medical Executive Committee.

Clark was joined by a half-dozen other physicians, including Dr. Henry Flautt, the hospital’s chief of staff.

Clark said that physicians have tried on two occasions in recent weeks to meet with the hospital board to discuss the findings and recommendations of an outside consulting firm, which had been hired to review the hospital’s operation.

On both occasions, including Monday of this week, he said, three of the board members did not come.

Clark did not name the three, but The Taxpayers Channel reported this morning that they are Sammy Foster, a city appointee, and Nick Chandler and Freddie White-Johnson, both Leflore County appointees. The Commonwealth independently confirmed that as well.

Both Chandler and White-Johnson said this morning that they did not attend the called board meetings because they conflicted with their schedules. They were informed a day or two ahead of time of the special meetings, they said.

“I suggested to the hospital staff to get the doctors to write down what they wanted to discuss, but that was never done,” Chandler said.

Agendas for regularly scheduled board meetings are sent at least a week in advance to give members an idea of what will be discussed.

According to Chandler, four members of the Medical Executive Committee are scheduled to meet with the hospital board at its next regular meeting Nov. 21.

White-Johnson said when she first joined the board, she was told meetings would be the third Tuesday of every month.

“I am not going to neglect my job for a meeting that was not planned,” said White-Johnson, who is the president of the Fannie Lou Hamer Cancer Foundation.

According to White-Johnson, she has only missed one regularly scheduled board meeting since her appointment last December, and that was because she had been in a car accident.

Foster could not be reached for comment this morning.

Mayor Carolyn McAdams said she had spoken with Foster and encouraged him to attend these meetings.

Clark said Tuesday that the physicians are upset with what they see as being shut out of the decision-making at the hospital.

“We are just — if you will — a little beside ourselves because we can’t understand why these people do not want to maintain a dialogue with the medical staff,” Clark said.

“We are concerned about our patients. We are concerned about our patients’ safety and quality- care issues, and we cannot reasonably respond to those if we don’t have any input into the process,” Clark said.

He also said the committee would like to come back before the council with a proposal to revise the makeup of the board that sets policy for the publicly owned hospital. Currently the city has two appointees and the county three.

Clark said that the medical community should have some input into board appointees, and McAdams said she thinks at least one of the board members should be a physician.

Ward 6’s David Jordan, who also serves as a state senator,  said that he was concerned about the apparent conflict between the physicians and hospital board and that it needed to be looked into.

Ward 5’s Andrew Powell asked the council to go into executive session to discuss the matter, but it was not supported by other council members.

Clark said that many times the hospital board will go into executive session and exclude medical staff from the meetings. Although hospital boards are covered by the state Open Meetings Act, they have more exemptions to allow closed-door sessions than most other public bodies.

Clark said he felt that the hospital board has at times abused its executive session power.

McAdams said she believes the hospital board needs to be more transparent.

“The thing about going into executive session is the hospital is certainly a public entity — just like we are and the county,” the mayor said. “I think the transparency here, the rumors, the stuff that’s going around out there is because of all these closed-door meetings. We need to be open and face the music.”

Also, the council approved:

•Donating $9,000 to Our House Inc. The Greenville-based organization provides domestic violence training at the Greenwood Police Department and also a healthy relationship curriculum at Greenwood High School.

•A resolution to urge the state Legislature to allow municipalities to submit delinquent traffic fines and fees to the Mississippi Department of Revenue for collection by taking the money out of state income tax refunds owed to the debtor.

•Installing speed bumps in the 100 block of West Percy Street.

•Reappointing Fred T. Neely & Company as city auditors.

Contact Lauren Randall at 581-7239 or lrandall@gwcommonwealth.com.

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