Questions about whether the board and hospital administration have a hidden agenda linger

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News that Dr. Roy Kirkpatrick, a long-time general surgeon in Huntsville, was turned down for the position of Chief of Staff with Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare is raising eyebrows.

It’s been well over a year since an interim Chief of Staff for Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare was announced, following news that then-Chief of Staff Dr. Jan Goossens was retiring from the position.

On March 13, 2017, the interim position went to Dr. Biagio Iannantuono, but not without controversy. Iannantuono, a long-time Bracebridge surgeon, was reprimanded by the College of Physicians and Surgeons in 2009, associated with his behaviour with two nurses who had worked with him. His licence was revoked for a month and he was fined $3,650.

In an earlier interview with Doppler, then-Chair of the hospital Board, Evelyn Brown, defended the decision to make Dr. Iannantuono the Interim Chief of Staff, also noting that he had been the only one to step forward for the job.

The Board issued a release announcing the selection of Dr. Iannantuono in March 2017. The release stated the interim position would be effective for a one-year period, while recruitment for a permanent candidate took place. The release described the role of the Chief of Staff as follows: “The Chief of Staff is a member of the Administration team and is accountable to the Board of Directors. Through the Medical Advisory Committee, the Chief of Staff provides leadership to the medical staff to ensure quality care to all patients in accordance with policies established by the Board.”

When Doppler contacted Kirkpatrick, he confirmed that he had applied but had been turned down. He said he could not discuss the issue further due to a confidentiality agreement with the hospital.

The news isn’t sitting well, particularly with Huntsville doctors, according toTim Withey, former Director with the Board of the Simcoe Muskoka Local Health Integration Network (LHIN), the agency responsible for coordinating and funding health organizations in the community.  Withey has since stepped down as director with the LHIN for a position on Huntsville Council.

He said many doctors will not step forward due to fears of reprisal, particularly since they’ve signed a confidentiality agreement with the hospital.

“There’s a sense of certainly confusion as to why someone with Dr. Kirkpatrick’s credentials wouldn’t be perfect for the job,” said Withey.

In 2018, Kirkpatrick was presented with a service award by the Ontario Medical Association, he’s an independent assessor for the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, he has played a significant role with the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM), including being an associate professor and section chair for general surgery since 2013. He is the lead physician on the Huntsville Physicians Local Education Group and this year he was appointed as section chair of surgery. He is actively involved in teaching NOSM undergraduates and General Surgery residents. He’s also worked with the Red Cross and is a current member of Doctors Without Borders. He’s also had a distinguished career for more than 30 years as a general surgeon in this community, said Withey.

“He’s basically a leader recognized by the OMA, by the College, by the university—by everybody except apparently the administration of MAHC and the Board Chair. It’s just astounding that he wouldn’t be a perfect fit and continuing on with the Interim Chief of Staff who quite publicly said a year ago that all surgery needs to go through one door and that door is in Bracebridge,” said Withey. “So it leads one to wonder if there is an agenda that the administration has that they felt Roy didn’t agree with.”

In a telephone interview with MAHC Board Chair Phil Matthews, CEO Natalie Bubela and Chief Executive Human Resources & Support Services Robert Hughes, Doppler was told that the hiring process was ongoing.

“We’ve had a handful of applicants,” said Hughes, who explained that he could not talk about specifics due to confidentiality issues. He said he could not say specifically where they were in the hiring process neither, only noting: “We are in an active recruitment stage.”

Hughes added, “What we can tell you… is once the process is complete, the Board will be happy to make an announcement.”

Bubela said they’ve hired an executive search firm to help MAHC fill the vacancy and said the interim position is in place, “until we’re able to successfully recruit, and one can’t put a timeline on successful recruitment.”

Asked what they are looking for in a permanent Chief of Staff, Bubela said that the hospital has a job description “and we have criteria that we’re looking for such as potentially previous experience in the role of Chief of Staff. It isn’t a clinical position, it’s an administrative position. So clearly the individual should also be knowledgeable and have expertise in the clinical area but we are looking for people with administrative background as well.”

Hughes also added: “The physician is also responsible for physician human resources planning and overall plan to support continuing education for medical staff, ensure that medical staff adhere to medical staff bylaws, lead and supervise and champion quality care and safety amongst the medical staff as well as other duties that would be assigned by the board of directors.”

Asked how much the process is costing, Bubela said when the executive search company, Four Corners Group, was recruited more than two years ago, they were paid a lump sum for the recruitment. “No additional dollars have been expended for this recruitment. It was a one-time cost that carries on until they’ve actually delivered.” When asked, Bubela said she could not recall the actual amount the company was paid.

In a follow-up email, MAHC Corporate Communications Officer Allyson Snelling stated: “The contract with the executive search firm recruiter was executed in the spring of 2016 in anticipation of Dr. Jan Goossens’ term as Chief of Staff ending in the fall of 2016. At that time, payment was drawn from the professional services budget, which is also used to pay for things like the annual audit for example. As mentioned during the interview, the recruiter is obligated to continue the search at no extra cost to MAHC until such time as a Chief of Staff is in place.” In a separate email, Snelling also stated: “Pricing with all of our contracted services is confidential information and is proprietary to each individual vendor.”

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39 Comments

  1. Gladys Middlebrook on

    It seems that SOMEONE or more have an issue with Dr. Kirkpatrick! He is very well qualified and should be the obvious choice! Are they afraid he won’t put up with the B.S.?

  2. Marlene & John Müller on

    Dr. Roy Kirkpatrick. Dr. K., how can the board not see you are the right physician for the job? We, the people, can see the that Dr K is the right choice. Huntsville and area needs the hospital to remain open. Dr K would make an awesome chief of staff! Dr Kirkpatrick, the right physician for the job!

  3. K.P. is the best choice for this position , with out a question. I don’t understand why he has been disqualified . He is committed to the people of Huntsville, and the staff at our hospital. He is more then qualified , and has put in a lot of years proving it . What a slap in the face for this wonderful man ! For Shame !

  4. I felt sad and very frustrated when I heard that Dr. Roy Kirkpatrick, a long- term general surgeon in Huntsville, was turned down for the position of Chief of Staff with Muskoka Algonquin Heathcare. Instead, the Board has appointed an Interim Chief of Staff, a surgeon who was reprimanded by the College of Physicians and Surgeons in 2009 for inappropriate behaviour.

    Dr. Kirkpatrick’s credentials make him a perfect candidate for this position. This decision makes no sense. An executive firm has been hired to help the MAHC fill the vacancy. They are unable to put forward a timeline for when a successful person might be recruited.

    I wonder how the Huntsville Hospital Foundation feels about the Board’s decision? Although I donate every Christmas to the Foundation, I will make no further donations until this issue is resolved. If funding is affected, perhaps the Foundation will get involved.

    The citizens of Muskoka must continue to fight for two acute care hospitals, one in Huntsville and one in Bracebridge.

    Mary Spring
    Huntsville, Ontario

  5. The recruiter can take 10 years, the way this reads , without pay.
    My question is , where can one find a Chief of Staff with all the requirements asked for and willing to move to this area and dealing with all this.
    If you have a qualified person ,willing to do the job , why does one reject a person with those qualifications.
    Administration is NOT the
    issues , a good leadership with experience at the medical application is.
    If Administration is of that much importance, we are on BIG trouble. We need to replace the Administrators and get people who care to get the job done.

  6. Yet another political misstep for the MAHC admin. I think you underestimated the effect your decision would have when you rejected K.P. for C of S.

  7. I must say up front, that I have fortunately been administered to by many of the tremendous surgeons and doctors employed by the Huntsville Hospital as well as Dr. Kp. on previous occasions. If Dr. Kp. does not have the credentials to be the Chief of Staff , at the Huntsville Hospital, the bar must be set so high that there will never be a Chief of Staff. Dr. Kp has the knowledge. skill and personality to deal with any of the issues that arise. Perhaps we should be glad that Dr. KP remains as a full time surgeon at the Huntsville Hospital. It is also very disconcerting that CEO Natalie Bubela cannot recall the actual amount that the recruiting firm was paid.

  8. What is the “Secret ” agenda you suggest and how does not hiring a certain Dr. play into it ? You certainly got people riled up about Speculation……WOW ! Great work!

    • Elizabeth Rice - Doppler Publisher on

      Quoted within the story, “So it leads one to wonder if there is an agenda that the administration has that they felt Roy didn’t agree with.” ~ Tim Withey

  9. So, if I read this article right the search started in the spring of 2016 (approaching three years) and they still haven’t identified a candidate.
    I have to agree with Councillor Withey’s comments, makes you wonder if there is an agenda in this decision.

  10. I cast serious doubt on the Administrator who takes 3 years to make a decision on this. Seriously! Rejecting Dr Kirkpatrick is a slap in the face to the man, the process and the community . Dr. Kirkpatrick you get my vote anyday.

  11. This is patently ridiculous. As a former member of two LHIN committees (apparently a qualification to express an opinion); I agree completely with Mr. Withey.
    .
    Also, I would aver that:
    .
    1) any arms-length executive search firm would have chosen Dr. Kirkpatrick;
    .
    2) the Freedom to Information Act would pry the dollar amount out of the veil of secrecy;
    .
    3) how is a doctor, who has formerly harassed his nursing staff, qualified to ensure the safety of medical
    personnel?;
    .
    4) does the interim Chief of Staff possess administrative experience of which we are unaware?; and
    .
    5) yes, the Chief of Staff is accountable to the Board of Directors, who, in turn, IS ACCOUNTABLE TO THE
    COMMUNITY.
    .
    The community has spoken: your lack of accountability is showing.

  12. After the search firm has spent 3 years without result, one has to ask 3 questions. Are the criteria deliberately impossible to fill so the Board can continue to do as they please? Has the search firm decided that it is not worth spending any more time and money against a fixed budget for an impossible task? Is it time to get another search firm? I have had significant experience in the business of recruiting in a large firm and also significant experience with Dr. Kirkpatrick. Dr. K is a perfect fit for this job that more than anything requires the human touch of a totally honest person.

    • I wonder what Dr. Kirkpatrick said to her to get Bubela’s back up? ?
      And, how is it that she doesn’t “remember” how much the outside recruiting firm was paid? How is it that she is able to get away with not promising that the amount would be revealed to the public? How is it that they were paid a lump sum and they have failed to find an excellent candidate in Dr. Kirkpatrick? How is it that a doctor like Iannantuono, who has been disciplined for misconduct, has an indefinite appointment as interim chief-of-staff and another doctor who is very qualified was turned down? I think Bubela owes us some answers.

  13. As a financial contributor to our local hospital I am disappointed for two reasons. One it would appear that a first rate candidate for the job is right here with more than enough credentials. Second we have ignored him and will incur needless expense by engaging a “ head hunter” to do the job of the board. I do not contribute money to see it wasted on needless expenses

  14. Betsy Rothwell on

    This issue needs to be kept front and centre until it is resolved. We can’t let it go to the back burner with so many questions unanswered

  15. Get rid of these administrators. It is clear that they think that MAHC is their private fiefdom and they need to be disabused of that notion by receiving two weeks notice and don’t let the door slam you on the way out. You have done a heinous disservice to the people of Huntsville

    • A lot of us totally agree with your assessment, Celia Finley, and we are constantly wondering WHY the MAHC board members are still functioning. A Vote of No Confidence said it all and they should have been long gone. What does it take to get through to these people?? I, personally, am very tired of always looking over my shoulder at what MAHC is trying to slip by us every time there is a new sensitive story printed. Our trust is gone, and so should they be! It seems that if any qualified candidate is not a member of their ‘old boy/girls club’ they are ignored or discharged. Now it is your turn, MAHC – the shoe fits, so wear it!

  16. i would echo all of the positive comments which have been expressed here by others. Dr.K, in my opinion, is a true professional who cares deeply about the people he serves, the staff with whom he works and does so with a a positive attitude and a wonderful sense of humour.

    He “walks the talk” and has all of the attributes of a capable leader who not only does things right, but also does the right things.

    If there is to be a petition of support for Dr.K, sign me up!

  17. I normally stay away from commenting but looking at the solid comments made by so many on behalf of Dr. Kp i must chime in. Hugh Holland your approach is correct. Straightforward questions need answers. I have known Dr. Kp from various aspects of life in this community over many years. If he can’t meet standards then standards and those imposing them must be questionned.

  18. Victoria Ryland Mathies on

    This decision by the board of our hospital notwithstanding, I will absolutely continue to donate to our hospital foundation since this fundraising is vital to our hospital’s acquisition of the equipment and modern technology that it needs to serve us. The Foundation had no hand in the decision the board made/makes and should not be starved for funds and donations because of it. Our hospital needs our support now and every day!

    • I agree, Victoria–stopping donations is a bad idea, even though it is tempting. Stopping donations does more to hurt the innocent patients and staff of the hospital than it does to the hospital administration and the Board. We are entitled to some answers from CEO Natalie Bubela and the hospital Board. If they fail to provide them, then I would propose that they all be held accountable, in whatever way is possible. If it is not possible, then that points to a major problem in our Ministry of Health and Long Term Care and must be taken up with our MPP, Norm Miller and the Ford government. Even though this problem would not be their doing, it needs to get fixed ASAP before anymore healthcare tax dollars are spent on “consultants” who collect fees without performing the tasks they were hired to perform. Why do we need so many healthcare “consultants” anyway? Are they performing tasks that we can expect our administrators to perform? Who is holding them accountable?

    • Agreed. The hospital is for patients and always needs donations. We can’t forget about Algonquin Grace hospice as well.

  19. The WHOLE process for the area getting a new hospital is mismanaged. It’s a disgrace … when just down the road Orillia is moving FWD with plans, government support, new hospital etc etc… Bracebridge & Huntsville are stuck in a Time Warp…forever! I am local and have used both hospitals in my 70 years on the planet. They are a disgrace because of many many issues, because of age of the buildings etc etc! I have gone north to North Bay and down south to many of the hospitals south of Barrie because the SERVICES are not available in MUSKOKA! Everyone I know needs to go south for everything … EVERYTHING.WHY? Because our hospitals canNOT provide the services. They are too old. They should be classified as clinics … and I strongly believe the staff and the Hospital board knows it too … that WE need a new hospital … I have been told and have had discussions ‘off the record’ .. in private .. with an executive on the hospital board … that the whole ‘ new Hospital disaster’ is political and has nothing to do with reality or the future health care for area! It’s amazing how the mayors talk about no investments, no jobs, no new business to the area, etc etc They are living / stuck in a fantasy world ! A new hospital would have been the drawing card for ALL the problems, but they realized their political careers($$$) and …lively hood($$$) …were at stake and …buckled!

    • Agreed, Bob. If the Province is sincerely interested in developing the “rest of the Province” (as they have said) adequate medical services, funded properly, is part of attracting new businesses and jobs to the less populated areas of central Ontario.

    • Bob, you say that our hospitals are too old to provide the services? What evidence do you have to support this claim? I think you would find many at MAHC who would disagree. Investments needed now, for sure, but too old to upgrade ??

      Did you know that our hospitals are middle aged, meaning about half are older than ours. What do you think the provincial government would say about replacing 50% of the provinces ~230 hospital sites in the next 10 – 15 years? Do you know what that would cost ? I have run some order of magnitude numbers on it – the cost would likely fall in the $70B range, and you would need to add $$ in for the other 50% of newer hospitals. Do you know what the government annual budget is for hospital infrastructure capital (left over from the Liberal government)? Its about $2B/yr, and that’s likely to be cut due to the current $15B provincial deficit. See the problem with what you are hoping for?

      You also say this hospital disaster is political, and nothing to do with reality or future of health care.. not really clear what you mean by this. Health care and hospital spending in particular always has been political when there are limits to what is affordable. Why, its about critical services people care about, and people vote, and politicians must respect what the people want. If there were a limitless supply of $, there would be no issue. but that’s just not reality.
      One thing is clear, if MAHC doesn’t get it right, aligning the medical community, businesses, politicians, and most importantly the people, we lose.

      Last, I would like to see the provincial government provide hospitals some balanced and fair guidelines on what they can expect (that is affordable ) for infrastructure capital $ as part of capital planning. That would shorten the planning cycle by narrowing the options that are studied. What is the point to continue with the provinces hospital capital plan wish-list that is likely at least $50B++ (note, this number is not publicly available) , stringing hospitals along for decades while they fight or lobby for their chunk of it, and in the end many are disappointed? This is costly, wasteful, and needlessly delays getting results. I sure hope the Ford government will make serious changes and improvements to how health care is run in the province.

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