Some community members, including doctors, want to know why the Regional Medical Center’s trustees did not renew the contract of the hospital’s president and chief executive officer.
"It is the concern of the general public whether the RMC Board of Trustees is responsible, equitable and researched in its decision-making," Orangeburg podiatrist Dr. Kevin Ray wrote in an Aug. 19 letter to the RMC board chairman.
"The county councils of Orangeburg and Calhoun are tasked with overseeing the BOT and the citizens of these counties are charged with holding the BOT and county councils accountable for the health and wealth of our primary provider of health care, Regional Medical Center,” the letter said.
The RMC board voted on Aug. 6 not to renew the contract of CEO Charles Williams, who has been at the hospital for three years. He’ll remain until his contract ends in December.
Ray says he’s seeking transparency from the board on behalf of the concerned citizens of Orangeburg, Calhoun and Bamberg counties. He asks for the board to fulfill his request for information under the S.C. Freedom of Information Act.
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The letter asks for:
• All documents, including electronic communications and emails, supporting the non-renewal Williams’ contract, including the vote of individual board members.
• All documents including electronic communications and emails of regular and special meeting minutes from Jan. 1, 2017 to July 31, 2020.
• Financial documents.
• All documents or records of current board members with professional, personal or business conflicts of interest.
• All documents or records outlining a succession plan for a new administration that represents the demographics of the county and ensuring that a qualified black candidate is presented.
• Access information (time, place, login, etc.) to the next in-person or virtual, regular or special board meeting.
Board Chair the Rev. Dr. Caesar Richburg acknowledged receipt of the letter and said he shared it with the board's attorney, who is following through on the requests.
Richburg defended the board's Aug. 6 special called meeting, saying the meeting was called per Williams’ contract. The contract gives Williams 120-day notice about whether his contract will be renewed.
"There must be 24-hour posting of the meeting and that was done," Richburg said. "No laws were violated. Protocol was completely followed. There was no secrecy about anything."
The roll call on how the board voted has yet to be provided to the media despite a request for the vote results. Richburg said the minutes of the meeting will be coming out and will be made public.
When asked why Williams’ contract was not renewed, Richburg said the matter was discussed in closed session and it will be left to closed session.
"The board recognized that Charles has significant talents and has had many accomplishments during his tenure," Richburg said. "The board had a very detailed and substantive discussion in executive session regarding the leadership needs of RMC moving forward."
He said the board was very close but, “a change in leadership would best support RMC moving forward into the future.”
"Charles was informed of the decision by counsel and he pledged to give his full attention to the RMC until Dec. 10," Richburg said.
Richburg said the hospital has started to formulate a transition plan, which will include the search for an interim or new CEO.
"There are currently no plans to sell the hospital or to affiliate or partner with any system," Richburg said. "RMC has a remarkable future. We are excited about its future (and) the services offered by the institution."
Ray said at least 150 community members tried to listen to the hospital board’s meeting by phone on Tuesday.
Background noise was audible throughout the call, prompting several board members to request members on the community line mute their phones. The background noise continued until the board voted to go into closed session following the public portion of the meeting.
"The confidence level in this board is very, very low," Ray said Tuesday afternoon after the conference call. "The frustration level for this board has escalated. It (the call) was complete pandemonium. No one from the community could hear."
"The community feels like if they can't manage a meeting in this current environment, how can they manage the hospital effectively?" he said.
Ray said, "The community will seek a vote of no confidence as it relates to this board.”
Ear, nose and throat specialist Dr. John Ansley of Orangeburg said he has been in practice for 20 years and questions if the board is serving “the best interest of the hospital and medical community at-large.”
"The board seems to have an agenda that is not clear," Ansley said.
Medical staff members directly involved in patient care are being left in the dark, he said.
Ansley said he was the 90th caller on the line when he signed in to listen to the meeting.
"They are using some outdated technology that did not allow the host to mute all the callers," he said. "This seems like basic technology the board could use so that the concerned citizens could listen in and hear what is driving the agenda."
"I think the board needs to be held accountable for the actions the board took and explain why the action was taken and what they hope to accomplish by changing the CEO of the hospital who by all measures was doing a good job," Ansley continued. "We are in the middle of a pandemic and that does not seem to be a wise time to make a change at such a critical time for Orangeburg’s health care needs."
Ansley said the medical staff is exploring the possibly of issuing a “vote of no confidence” against the board.
"This is about accountability and answering to the medical staff that they should have our best interests and, more importantly, the patients’ best interests, in mind in making these decisions," Ansley said. "I don't believe that to be the case."
Aisha Graham, one of the many concerned citizens who tried to listen in to Tuesday's call, says she wants transparency. She says by all indications, Williams was doing a good job.
"If there is a concern, I think community should know about it," said Graham, who is a licensed master social worker.