In his recent letter to constituents published in The Vermont Journal & The Shopper, Sen. McCormack admonishes us not to be angry about what happened at Springfield Hospital. He’s right that anger rarely solves anything. But the good senator is silent on another “a” word that is very appropriate to the situation – accountability.
“I think Tim is doing a fine job,” Springfield Medical Care Systems Board Chair George Lamb was quoted as saying days before his top administrator Tim Ford and CFO Scott Whittemore bailed out, leaving a mass of debt and mismanagement woes behind them. Any of us who have served on nonprofit boards know that there are obvious signs that an organization is in trouble long before you can’t pay your bills. But you have to be paying attention.
Given the extensive financial data published by VT Digger and VPR, we know that red lights were flashing long, long before the two top executives fled in December. But instead of acting to staunch the losses or even admitting that something was wrong, the hospital simply stopped paying its bills and muzzled the staff. That’s a pretty sleazy way to do business…and it cost us more than dollars as some excellent doctors left the hospital as a result of this irresponsibility.
I would encourage Mr. Lamb to respond to those of us who depend on Springfield Hospital and wonder how exactly the Board let this happen. The staff too deserves an explanation of how the Board failed to act in the face of $14 million in losses over the past couple of years. On Feb. 19, current and former staff members submitted a petition calling for Mr. Lamb’s resignation.
The fact that the state of Vermont ponied up $800,000 in taxpayer money to keep the hospital open was a very lucky break for us. But that loan shouldn’t provide an easy out for a Board that was clearly derelict in its duties to our communities. The question of accountability remains unanswered.