Phaire resigns from Luis Hospital board


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ST. CROIX - Longtime Luis Hospital board member Wallace Phaire told The Daily News in an interview Monday evening that he resigned from the board, and that his resignation had taken effect at 5 p.m.

But Government House spokesman Jean Greaux Jr. said Monday night that the governor - who had asked Phaire to stay on for awhile when Phaire initially tried to resign a week ago - "hasn't received anything that would suggest Mr. Phaire's resigation was effective today."

Greaux said that at this point, the governor still considers Phaire part of the hospital board, without any documentation to the contrary.

Phaire's resignation would leave the hospital with only two members on the nine-seat board.

It also would leave the hospital with only one certifying officer, interim Chief Executive Officer Dr. Kendall Griffith. Most checks have to be signed by two certifying officers.

In a round of terminations that included 15 staff members on Nov. 29, Griffith fired Chief Financial Officer Deepak Bansal and the assistant CFO. Another assistant promptly resigned. That left the hospital with only Griffith and Phaire as certifying officers.

Phaire told The Daily News that he resigned because he is no longer comfortable "with the management of the books and the accounts" and was uncomfortable putting his name on checks and financial documents.

He also said he has concerns about the way the hospital is being managed.

"I just couldn't put up with it anymore. There's been, for lack of a better word, a total deterioration," Phaire said. "There are too many things that have been done that didn't follow proper protocol, didn't follow the proper procedures."

Phaire said he views the decision by Griffith to fire the financial management team on Nov. 29 as an example of that.

V.I. Code empowers the hospital CEO to appoint and remove the chief financial officer but requires that it be done with the "advice and consent" of the hospital board. Phaire said the board was not consulted about the move.

Griffith said at the time that he had talked with Dr. Anthony Ricketts, the acting chairman for the Luis Hospital board, about his plan to fire the CFO.

Phaire said he has not been told about or asked for input on a variety of matters concerning the hospital.

"It's being run like a dictatorship. There's no input from us, or at least from me," Phaire said. "I assume the other two board members have been in the loop, but I have not been in the loop."

Phaire said he believes the termination of the financial management team was an ill-conceived idea.

"I have nothing against the ladies that are working there," Phaire said of the hospital's Financial Department. "I know they are all doing their best, but the new systems we've incorporated, I know they haven't been trained on them. That's something that should have been taken into consideration before they were fired."

Phaire said he does not have anything against Griffith, but he feels that Griffith does not have the skill set necessary to be the top manager at the hospital. Phaire voted against offering Griffith the interim CEO position in January.

"I didn't feel - and I still don't feel - he has the ability to manage an operation like that efficiently," Phaire said. "But he is a hell of a good doctor."

Griffith declined comment about Phaire's resignation or statements on Monday night, saying only that he had been unaware of the resignation and thanked Phaire for his service.

Phaire said Monday that he had submitted his resignation a week earlier, but that Gov. John deJongh Jr. didn't accept it and had asked him to stay on while the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services was onsite at the hospital conducting a survey.

"I told him I would give him a week, which I did," Phaire said.

Phaire said that he sent notice of the resignation on Monday afternoon directly to the governor but had not heard back from deJongh.

Greaux said Phaire did resign last week but that the governor had asked him not to and had asked Phaire to stay on the board "to see us through the CMS process."

"The governor's statement to him was to see us through the CMS process, that the hospital and community didn't need the additional stress of the resignation of another board member," Greaux said.

Greaux went on to say that Phaire had agreed to stay on for awhile, and there was no definitive resignation date discussed a week ago. He also said that the governor had not received any documentation Monday indicating the resignation was taking effect.

Griffith said that if Phaire has resigned, hospital officials will seek an emergency meeting of the territorial hospital board to name new certifying officers so that checks can be signed.

Griffith also said that Nellon Bowry, who was the chief financial officer at Luis Hospital some years back and also has been CFO at the V.I. Water and Power Authority, has agreed to take the Luis CFO position temporarily until a search for a permanent CFO can be conducted. Griffith said no start date had yet been set for Bowry.

The Daily News was unable to reach Bowry Monday night for confirmation.

Since Luis Hospital board chairwoman Kye Walker and member Imelda Dizon resigned under political pressure in July, the Luis Hospital board has lacked a quorum to officially conduct business, with only Ricketts, Phaire and Joyce Heyliger as members.

On Nov. 9, Government House announced that deJongh had nominated two people, Philip Arcidi and Pastor Dexter Skepple, to fill two of the six empty seats on the Luis board.

With Phaire's resignation, the board - even with two new members, if they make it through the nomination process - would still not be able to muster a quorum.

Greaux said Monday that the governor is still looking at potential candidates for the board.

"I think some are under consideration, but he hasn't made any decision yet. It is a work in progress," he said.

- Contact Joy Blackburn at 714-9145 or email jblackburn@dailynews.vi.

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