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 His licence was revoked for a month and he was fined $3,650.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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