Letters to the Editor, Oct. 6, 2012
To: the Editor—
I am compelled to write to correct numerous false, inaccurate or misleading statements made in public and provided to the Block Island Times.
I said I would sign a waiver if an open meeting was scheduled between the BIHS board and the Town. The First Warden indicated to Peter Saxon and the BIHS board in the emergency meeting on September 10 that the Town was not interested in an open meeting to discuss my performance if a private settlement was reached and since a settlement was believed near, there was no need for a waiver or an open meeting. Therefore, I will not sign away my rights at this time.
During the August 2012 BIHS board meeting, the board president recapped the events surrounding an email with unfortunate wording regarding Dr. Miller that went to numerous unintended recipients including public members of the BIHS search committee in April of 2011. She stated that she called me as soon as she realized what she had done, was upset that I would not go into an employee’s email account to delete that email, and further said that she received unanimous support from the board not to resign. I was the one who first saw that email on a Saturday morning working overtime at the center and called her to report her unintended distribution (phone records would verify this). The board president then asked me to delete that email and, in so many words, keep it close to the vest. Most of the board members were not on the original distribution. If there was some type of informal polling, did a vote of confidence include all board members reading details of what was stated in that email? There is no mention of this “unanimous vote of confidence” in any board minutes I have seen. That unfortunate incident was very upsetting to all.
At the September 17, 2012 Town Council meeting, the board president and secretary said that BIHS was never close to a management agreement with Thundermist and that information regarding Thundermist was being openly shared with the Public and Town Council. However, I understand that the board president advised Thundermist that BIHS was ready to move forward based on cost estimates that were never shared with the public or Town Council. Such costs were substantial and I was very concerned about where the money would come from and why we were not considering alternative partners on the mainland. The costs to move forward with everything being proposed would have been on the order of six figures.
The interim Executive Director made several statements in his Sept. 29 letter to the editor about the Medical Center operations and physical plant. I want to clarify these statements.
• Regarding the interim E.D. statement on morale, he says the staff worked as a team this summer providing exceptional levels of care. Frankly, I do not recall when the staff has not provided exceptional care. Morale is not a staff to patient issue, but rather an administrator to staff issue.
Patients have always received outstanding levels of care.
• The interim E.D. stated “collecting bills is an ongoing problem.” I can tell you that the center’s collection rate was given high marks by consultant reviews in 2005 and 2011. The report that the interim E.D. handed out at the meeting, showing $77,000 accounts receivables outstanding 120 days, is incomplete. That $77,000 figure predominantly includes five years of uncollectible bad debts from 2006 – 2010 which are tracked in the caretracker system identifying patients who failed to pay. BIHS’s bad debt rate is quite normal considering that summer visitors arrive as patients from all over the USA and the world. In fact, from 2007 – 2011, the rate of collection was in the range of 70-79 cents on every dollar. Considering average insurance reimbursements are about 60 to 70 cents on every dollar charged, and that this applies to about 70% of the center’s business, the collection rate should be applauded, not criticized.
• The interim E.D. stated they are searching for meeting minutes and raised concern for a crashed computer server. These prolonged searches for information would have easily been avoided with a well-planned transition involving me. The manner in which information was moved or deleted from the ACER notebook I used (it was abruptly taken from my possession when I was dismissed) suggests that some valuable data has been lost. Additionally, the computer consultant vendor had back-up devices running on the server, which can be used to restore data from a crashed server. Open minutes were kept on the server by the office coordinator in a folder name provided to the interim E.D. Closed minutes were emailed and maintained primarily by the board secretary since I was frequently not invited to closed sessions. If BIHS was unable to find minutes and I had been asked, I would have. And I have since advised that I provided copies of minutes to the auditors the past few years including closed minutes for meetings I was permitted to attend.
• Contrary to the interim E.D.’s comments, the Block Island Times provides responsible reporting. Any inaccuracies are coming from incomplete information provided to them. The interim E.D. comments that “the medical center is better off now than it was two months ago because decisions are being made and improvements are taking place.” Is this to say that decisions were not being made previously and improvements did not take place in the past? I think the facts speak differently.
• The interim E.D. notes that membership in BIHS is on par with prior years. However, membershipI is not on par with prior years. The Treasurer reported membership 2012 YTD donations of $25,000-26,000 — he further reported that last year’s membership donations and fundraising details by event were not available. However, I provided the secretary with a list of more than 5,000 names including prospective and past members just days after I left in order to allow BIHS to mail out a membership campaign letter. Checks received at the medical center were copied, filed by deposit date, and entered into the accounting system, including fundraising by event. Last year’s membership donations (2011) were over $68,000 for the year, and total donations including fundraising in 2011 were recorded as nearly $151,000 (before expenses).
In the BIHS 9/29 open board meeting, certain statements need clarification and/or correction.
• In answer to the Town’s request for documents relating to the management contract between BIHS and the Town, the BIHS secretary stated “making copies of documents for the Town would make it necessary to add more staff.” Instead, why not email one copy to the Town of each of the requested documents and let them distribute the documents electronically or on paper? This would not require additional staff.
• The BIHS secretary further stated, “It wasn’t as though the (BIHS board) meetings have not been open.” Much of the board meeting time was spent in closed session for unknown reasons. To remedy this issue, a Town Council member could have been the Town appointee on the Board. Then important issues would be communicated directly to other Council members. Bearing in mind, the Medical Center, the Dr.’s House and the Davidson House are Town properties leased to BIHS for $1 per year in addition to the $86,800 annual operating funds provided by the taxpayers (2011), The Town deserves direct and high profile representation on the BIHS board by a Council member.
• The Board’s building and grounds committee chairman reported a list of needed repairs to all BIHS leased buildings and said that “no work had been done on the Dr.’s House for 15 years.” Contrary to the allegation, maintenance was ongoing with funds available. I spent a significant amount of time in 2011 and 2012 familiarizing the same contractor on the committee with the properties. Regarding “innumerable repairs” needed, the issue with the air conditioner was identified last year and I submitted a grant request for $10,000 this year (this was in process at the time of my dismissal). In addition, nearly $60,000 was spent on the large Dr.’s House for maintenance since 1997 and over $25,000 in leasehold improvements since 2001, including new shingles completed in January of this year plus over $50,000 was invested to improve the Davidson House in 2010 for provider housing. Further, significant improvements were made to the Medical Center when I became E.D. in 2006 — nearly $110,000 on four visiting specialist exam rooms in the basement, nearly $210,000 to implement a wheelchair lift addition, and nearly $130,000 to install medical and dental digital X-ray systems. All these projects were planned/supervised by me and predominantly paid for by donations, fundraising and grants.
Where do we go from here? Let’s all be accurate and transparent with the facts. Perhaps that is a good place to start. To use the interim’s E.D.’s own words, “It is easy to be a Friday morning quarterback, so easy to destroy spirit and reputation.”
Old Center Road
To: the Editor—
In honor of the Volunteer Board of Directors of the Block Island Medical Center, we will send a memorial contribution instead of all the “picky-squeaky” tales of woe. We hope this will inspire other contributions to boost the funds that are necessary to keep our center financially strong and all of its personnel happy.
Norma and Jason Reder
Corn Neck Road
To: the Editor—
We were a privileged family to know Father Ray. He was very giving and kind to my parents and grandmother, Mary Tinker. Bedridden the last years of her life, my folks would bring Mary every summer to her little house on the Neck. Father Kehew would stop by to see her often. They would visit and chat, and then they would pray the Our Father together before he left. She would remark to my parents that Father Ray was a wonderful priest but you would think he would know his prayers better. You see, Mary, born in 1901, was raised a Baptist on Block Island, so her version of the prayer was a little different from the updated Catholic version with thees and thous and debtors instead of trespassers. I always chuckle when I think of Father Ray and Mary.
I have summered on or visited Block Island all of my 51 years, and when I married and had a child, we would spend at least two weeks with my folks every summer. My son is an only child so we would invite two of his friends to join us, usually Nick and Jon. We went to Mass one beautiful Sunday morning and then went for bagels. Young Nick asked “What type of church is Saint Andrew?” The question confused me as Nick is Catholic and I asked what he meant. “What religion is it?” he replied. I said “Nick, it’s a Catholic Church, why do you ask?” He replied: “Because when the priest talked he was so interesting.”
Father Ray had a wonderful way of preaching. He was not talking at you, rather, he invited you into the process, to journey with him through the readings of the day.
I could continue this letter with other thoughts and observations but will conclude with a request that we all say a prayer on behalf of Father Ray, that he be judged fairly by his maker and enjoy everlasting peace in heaven.
Corn Neck Road and Chester, N.J.
To: the Editor—
In the remembrance of Father Ray Kehew entitled, “A man with a loving and broad reach” that I wrote for last week’s edition of the BIT, I stated that he was assigned to the island parish “as punishment for sins of social action activism….and banished to our island.”
That statement was based on interviews with island parishioners having secondhand knowledge. Father Robert Randall, who was Father Ray’s predecessor and officiated at Father Ray’s memorial service, a person with firsthand knowledge of Father Ray’s assignment, has humbly asked me to correct the record.
They were both professors contemporaneously at Providence College when Father Randall was the Block Island priest; they knew each other well. As a teacher, Father Randall was free weekends (when he travelled back and forth) and summers and was able to schedule his priestly duties accordingly. When he was ready to retire, he thought of Father Ray as a worthy successor.
Indeed, Father Ray had been a social activist priest and did not always see eye-to-eye with the diocese. However, he had volunteered and been assigned to Genesis, a special parish group comprised of families from different local parishes, who, after Vatican II under John XXIII, were seeking to keep pace with more spiritual and challenging programs, both personally and within the community. Father Ray was a good fit for that, too; he served them well.
Ultimately, when the St. Andrew vacancy was about to occur at the end of Father Randall’s tenure, he and a group of fellow priests, after considerable time and effort, convinced the Priest’s Personnel Board that Father Ray was the right one to fill the vacancy. He was assigned (an assignment that the diocese considered a privileged one) and we were the blessed beneficiaries, with gratitude to Father Randall and his group.
As an aside, for those new to the community, Father Randall (whose grandfather was a Negus, after whom Negus Park is named) raised the funds and saw to the construction of the Parish Center, was a founder of the Mary D. Fund, started the Ecumenical Choir, started the St. Andrew concert and lecture series, and is a skilled golfer, a composer, and an accomplished pianist who can never pass a piano without trying it.
The record now stands corrected and revealed, notwithstanding Father Randall’s humble protestations against the disclosure of his many worthy accomplishments — especially those for the ongoing benefit, pleasure and education, of the island community.
West Side Road
To: the Editor—
I would like to thank all of our Block Island friends and family for your incredibly generous outpouring of support to my family and me during the recent loss of my beloved daughter, Lisa.
Your cards, flowers, Rescue Squad donations, and especially your remembrances of Lisa, have been a great support.
In particular, I would like to thank the many people who donated time and services on the day of Lisa’s funeral, including Father Joseph Protano, Betty Fitzpatrick, Peter Greenman, Megan Hennessy, Pat Queally, Joe and Abel Sprague, Dan Cahill, the taxi drivers, the Block Island Police Department, our wonderful Aldo’s staff, and everyone else who helped out that day.
Maria Leone and family
To: the Editor—
We want to thank the Block Island community and island friends for coming together once again to make the 6th annual Block Island Motoring Event, benefitting the B.I. Early Learning Center, a very wonderful and successful weekend. Fundraising went well for the BIELC with the local donations raffle, online and on-site silent auctions and participant registration fees. Mother Nature cooperated with beautiful clear skies as the event progressed and we had the most vehicles and spectators that we have ever seen. Heartfelt appreciation goes out to all of you who bring your vehicles from near and far for us to enjoy. We understand the effort and the event would be nothing without you.
A hearty thank you from all of us at the BIELC to those of you who donated time, energy, prizes, products and services to the event. Particular thanks go to The Narragansett Hotel, Interstate Navigation, Joe Riolo Racing, The Sullivan House, The Oar, The 1661 Inn, The National Hotel, The Harborside Inn, The Island Manor, Brown Septic Services, Littlefield & Sons, DVL Landscape Architecture, the B.I. Chamber of Commerce and B.I. Tourism Council and the Block Island Times for their generosity. The Town of New Shoreham road crew brought out their International Truck in memory of John Connell, thanks Mo! To all of you not specifically mentioned here, we hope to reach out to all of you personally to thank you; the event would not cover all corners and generations of the community without you. Thank you for your enthusiastic support and attendance.
As a result of this year’s successes, the planning for the 2013 7th annual event has already started. We look forward to making the event even better for you next year!
Derek & Deanna van Lent – Event Coordinators
Tatyana Ramella – Auction Coordinator
Susan Black - BIELC director
The BIELC Board of Directors, parents, teachers and students