Hospital CEO resigns, threatens suit
Bigelow named interim leader
Coulee Medical Center's chief executive tendered his resignation with a required 90-day notice last Thursday, offering to stay on until the end of that time but stating his intention to seek "liability claims."
J. Scott Graham's resignation letter was delivered by Chief Operating Officer Alan Wagner to the hospital commission during its meeting Monday night, but President Jerry Kennedy had received the letter in an email from Graham on Thursday.
"The Board of Directors, in concert with the hospital physicians, have engaged in a pattern of retaliatory conduct toward me that has left me no alternative but to pursue other employment opportunities," Graham wrote. "The Board's ongoing retaliation and refusal to act in good faith toward me in my position as hospital CEO have effectively resulted in the termination of my employment. Under these circumstances my only reasonable option is to resign."
Graham wrote that the board had been dealing with him in bad faith for months.
"The physicians have tortiously interfered with my employment relationship with the hospital. The board has engaged in a pattern of retaliatory conduct against me since I properly raised the important issue of physician compensation being out of compliance with federal law. I do intend to pursue liability claims against the hospital district and the physicians over these issues. My attorney will be in contact with hospital counsel in the near future with respect to these claims."
The board of commissioners unanimously voted to waive the 90-day clause and terminate Graham's position immediately. After an executive session, they installed Debra Bigelow as interim hospital district superintendent and chief executive officer.
Bigelow was the hospital's chief financial officer for many years and was director of community outreach until Monday night.
Kennedy said the board disagreed with Graham's characterization of the relationship breaking down since last fall between the physicians, Graham and the board since the introduction of a proposed revamp of physician pay that would cut out base salaries, paying instead on a production unit basis.
"If, in fact, litigation does arise from Mr. Graham," Kennedy said, "we'll refer it to our insurance carrier and they'll defend the hospital as appropriate."
Graham's resignation ends months of what many have described as increasing tensions at CMC, which Kennedy said Tuesday were already showing signs of abatement.
Filling a position on their own board, the commissioners voted to appoint Clea Pryor to take the seat vacated by Greg Behrens, who resigned earlier this year. Pryor and John Adkins, superintendent of Nespelem School District, had both written letters of interest to the board. Pryor, a former longtime hospital employee, had come to speak out against the administration after having defended it for some time.