The University of Mississippi Medical Center has withdrawn its offer to affiliate with Greenwood Leflore Hospital.
In letters dated Thursday and emailed Friday to Greenwood hospital officials, Mark S. Cianciolo, the chief strategy development officer, said UMMC was backing away from its desire to partner with the Greenwood hospital and provide it with management help due to the failure of the hospital’s governing board “to act on this matter despite multiple meetings over the course of the past few months ... .”
He wrote, “Our experience has demonstrated that strong united support from the Board, the Medical Staff and the entire community must be in place for us to be successful in assisting and supporting a hospital facing challenging financial circumstances.”
The letters were sent to Brian Waldrop, the chairman of the hospital board, and to Dr. George Smith, who serves as physician liaison to the board.
Waldrop, after receiving the letter, notified Greenwood Mayor Carolyn McAdams that he was resigning from the board, effective immediately.
He did not return calls Friday seeking comment.
In a three-paragraph letter of resignation to McAdams, Waldrop said, “My other commitments have become too great for me to be able to fulfill the requirements of my position on the Board, and I feel it is best for me to make room for someone with the time and energy to devote to the job.”
Waldrop, the former chief financial officer for Viking Range, has served as a city appointee on the hospital board since 2003. McAdams said although the timing of Waldrop’s resignation might have been prompted by his inability to win support for the affiliation agreement with the hospital board’s other three members, he had mentioned to her several weeks ago that she should start looking for someone else.
“He’s just a busy man,” she said.
Waldrop has several business ventures in and outside of Greenwood, including partnering in a restaurant, Station 222, that opened earlier this month in downtown Greenwood.
As to UMMC’s decision to withdraw its affiliation proposal to the hospital board, Smith said that the Jackson-based medical institution was “just frustrated with the failure of the board to communicate.”
The surgeon also said he believes UMMC was concerned by the hospital board’s decision in the past month to not renew his contract and those of three other physicians.
“One of the reasons (UMMC) wanted to come to Greenwood was the excellence of the medical staff. ... When you lose four of your very productive and senior physicians, you have made it more difficult for them to be successful.”
For months, hospital officials had been discussing a partnership with UMMC as a way to address the Greenwood hospital’s financial decline. The 208-bed hospital is suffering multimillion-dollar losses for the third straight year.
UMMC had proposed a three-year affiliation agreement that proponents said would help the Greenwood hospital increase its patient volume, recruit new physicians and save millions of dollars, most notably on a pending upgrade of the electronic medical records system. UMMC also offered to provide the hospital with an interim CEO, a position that has been vacant since the board fired Jim Jackson in March.
Despite a unanimous vote of the medical staff in support of both agreements, the hospital board declined last week to act on the affiliation during a closed-door meeting. Earlier this week, the board met again in executive session to review resumés of possible CEO candidates, apparently independent of the management help that UMMC was offering.
Waldrop was the only hospital board member who publicly voiced support for affiliating with UMMC. The other three board members — Sammy Foster, Freddie White-Johnson and Emma Bell — had expressed concerns that the partnership could compromise local control, although the affiliation agreement gave the hospital board veto power over any initiative proposed by a jointly appointed “steering council.”
Marc Rolph, director of public affairs for UMMC, indicated that the medical center was not closing the door to a possible future relationship with the Greenwood hospital.
“UMMC will continue to be supportive of Greenwood’s efforts to maintain a vibrant health care system for its residents, and we hope that future circumstances provide an opportunity for us to be more directly connected to the hospital and the community,” Rolph said.
Greenwood and Leflore County officials, in cooperation with the hospital board, have begun investigating the possibility of leasing the publicly owned hospital. The county Board of Supervisors and the City Council recently voted to authorize the conducting of a feasibility study, the first step in what is expected to be a yearlong process of soliciting lease proposals and evaluating them.
That process could be slowed by Waldrop’s resignation. His departure now leaves two vacancies on the five-member board.
Waldrop had been “an outstanding board member,” McAdams said.
“He really understood the dynamics and the financials of the hospital. He got the budget. He understood what needed to happen with the hospital. I appreciate him serving on that board for a very long time.”
She said that it’s going to be a challenge to find someone with the skills to replace Waldrop and willing to do so.
“It’s not easy because it’s such a controversial situation,” the mayor said. “We’re in a predicament, and it’s difficult to get people to come forward to be on this board.”
The other vacancy is a joint city-county appointment. The county has recommended Edgar Bland, a computer consultant, but the city has not acted on that recommendation.
•Contact Tim Kalich at 581-7243 or email@example.com.