Scrutiny of hospital, CEO continues

by nathan oster

The three members of the South Big Horn County Hospital District board who have been supporting Chief Executive Officer John Adlesich held firm to their beliefs Wednesday in the face of mounting criticism and the presentation of a petition with more than 350 signatures calling for their removal from office.

“In our system here in the U.S., the majority wins, so our CEO will continue the three-year rebuilding job he was hired to do and has been doing,” said Chairman Jeff Grant, reading from a prepared statement Wednesday night.

That job, he said, has included “correcting long-standing personnel and compliance issues, hiring an incredible team of managers to lead SBHCH many years into the future, hiring excellent patient services and patient care teams and making SBHCHD more financially sound than it’s ever been.”

While Grant, Sue Antley and Mitch Shelhamer continue to hold sway over the board, the views of Todd Denny, Margie Triplett and the 354 people whose signatures appeared on the petition echoed loudly as the board met in front of approximately 50 guests.

Jack Noyes and Tim Mills presented the petition, both in online and written form. Not all of the 354 signatures were from people living within the hospital district, and in some cases, people signed more than once.

The petition expressed “no confidence” in the ability of Grant, Antley and Shelhamer “to govern in the best interests of the special hospital district and the community” and called for them to resign immediately from the board.

Noyes said he was simply delivering the online petition and that he didn’t know who started it. He added that while he received tremendous care during a recent trip to the ER and remains a faithful user of and believer in the facility, “Somebody has to get a handle on this because it’s not getting any better.”

Mills had more pointed criticism, saying Antley, Grant and Shelhamer “need to listen to the public. I question the effectiveness of the leadership — members of the board and the administration,” he said.

Effective leaders, he said, establish quality relationships with department heads and staff that promote teamwork, the healthy sharing of ideas, the follow-through required to determine if they are do-able and the promoting of a sense of belonging.

That isn’t the climate that exists under Adlesich, he said.

“Verbal conflicts should be used as a learning tool, not a reason for firing,” he said. Speaking directly to the CEO, he said, “I have my doubts you have much experience as an employee.” He added, “Some of the staff fears losing their job at the whim of an egomaniac.

“For the good of the community, the administrator needs to resign or be dismissed. He has no intention of being vested in this community. He’s simply using this as a stepping stone.”

Mills ending by stating that the dismissal of Joe Yarborough, who had been serving as head of the radiology department, “should be investigated — not by you, but by the Department of Health.”

Reading from her own prepared statementn, Triplett denied being the person behind the petition and having anything to do with its circulation. “I do have to say that I am in support of the petition in regards to my belief that this board has not supported the community in its quest for a better medical facility,” she said.

Triplett continued. “Our board chairman and CEO have, independently from the board, made decisions and then cultivated agreements with the other two members of the board.” She said she has heard things through the grapevine — such as that Antley resigned and that Adlesich himself planned to step away on March 1.

Antley addressed speculation about her resignation.

“I changed my mind,” she shouted. “And you two … I am so blasted disappointed in you.”

As for Adlesich, he did not address the speculation about his future plans during the meeting, nor did he respond to an email seeking clarification. Grant, in an interview Tuesday afternoon, stated that he hasn’t heard anything of the sort from Adlesich. In any case, the CEO is required by his contract to give 60 days notice prior to leaving, he said.

Triplett further alleged that Antley, Shelhamer and Grant met in private with the CEO prior to the July meeting — and that she only knows about it because she accidentally stumbled upon it.

The board took no action on the petition. Prior to dismissing for the night, they met in executive session for approximately two hours. At one point, upon hearing a loud noise, a sheriff’s deputy who had been stationed outside knocked on the door to make sure that everything was all right.

According to Grant, someone in the room had slammed their hand down on the table.

When it emerged at 8:50 p.m., the board voted simply to “take action on personnel issues.”

In his opening remarks to the board, Grant had called the petition “ridiculous” and said it’s “just the latest in an ongoing attempt by a small group of people to interfere with the efficient operations of this facility and to attack a few individuals for personal reasons.”

Like he did in a paid advertisement, Grant noted that he and the other board members are prohibited by law from discussing the reasons behind the personnel decisions — unless, he said, the employee who was dismissed signs a release that allows them to do so.

Grant went on to say that the promoters of the petition dishonestly stated that it was to “save the hospital” in order to gather more signatures and that the suggestion that the hospital is struggling couldn’t be further from the truth. He cited the fact that the census in the hospital is higher than it’s ever been, that the clinic is as busy as it’s ever been and that operating profits exceed the year-to-date budget by 13 percent.

“Many things are going great,” he said, calling reports to the contrary “fake news” and part of a “disinformation campaign.” It is campaigns of that kind, he said, that cause qualified, decent, reasonable people to not serve on boards.”

Grant, who doesn’t plan to seek re-election, ended by saying, “If someone thinks they have something to contribute to SBHCHD, they should consider running this fall for one of the three open seats on the board — two four-year terms and one two-year term.”