McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

July 17, 2011

New hospital CEO will be welcome addition

By Kandra Wells

McALESTER — McAlester Regional Health Center’s board of directors is expected to announce soon who will be hired as the new chief executive officer.

We welcome the addition.

Word is there are two top candidates for the permanent post that has been filled by a temp — a man hired by a company that was contracted for the interim — since shortly after the firing of former CEO Shaun Beggs in October 2010. Interim CEO Brian Dietz has certainly made his mark, presumably doing the board’s bidding to make the hospital as viable and as healthy as possible.

The path has been rocky, as can be expected for a hospital sometimes seen as teetering, possibly on the brink of financial fragility, and certainly on the edge of community trust.

After months of layoffs, cutbacks and reduced patient loads the hospital, its administration and the board have been under the microscope. Dozens of public records requests have, at times, had hospital staff scurrying. There has been speculation aplenty on the costs for working dinners and out-of-town travel for board directors and administrators while former employees collect unemployment checks.

Ward 2 Councilor Steve Harrison noted at an April council meeting that the hospital is a $60 million public facility owned by the people of McAlester. Certainly, the people of McAlester should have a say in how their hospital is operated.

And we do. We elect our city councilors as our representatives. They, in turn, name a board of trustees to oversee hospital operations. And those board members hire people like Beggs, companies like one that hired Dietz, and whoever will be the hospital’s newest CEO.

When it comes to the hospital, we’re talking about real life and death consequences for our families, our neighbors and our co-workers. We all need to know our hospital will be prepared to help us when we need it.

The News-Capital is hopeful each councilor and each hospital board member weighs the decisions made on behalf of this community. Perhaps those decisions are colored by personal history, public input, collective research or a mix of those and other factors.

In the end, if we as a community are unhappy with those decisions, we have a voice. We can write a letter, make a phone call, run for office and vote at the polls. We can promote a fruitful dialogue that keeps us informed about what is happening.

Meanwhile, we welcome our hospital’s newest CEO, whoever he may be. We welcome a brand new epoch of transparency, health and trust.