Health Care Power Struggle in the Hands of Lubbock Court - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

2/15/06

Health Care Power Struggle in the Hands of Lubbock Court

Presbyterian and Children's Health Care Clinics located in downtown Lubbock provide health care to lower income families in Lubbock County.

Instead of using words like merger or re-organization, employees of Presbyterian Health Care and Children's Health Care Clinics are calling it a "hostile takeover." They say the way this is happening is unfair to the doctors, nurses and patients of these community health care clinics.

Three nurses NewsChannel 11 was able to contact, told us they love their job at Presbyterian Health Care clinic. They treat an average of 40,000 patients a year. But, a re-organization plan could force them and at least 65 other employees out of their jobs by February 27th.

"We were shocked. We didn't know he was planning to take over all of our clinics. It was upsetting to all of us," said Rhonda Robertson, Supervising Nurse at Presbyterian.

"He" is Community Health Center of Lubbock (CHCL) C.E.O. Michael Sullivan. Sullivan had no comment for NewsChannel 11 when we stopped by to ask him questions. In a letter he sent out, however, he explains the reason for the re-organization is to "improve access to dental, mental health and primary care."

But that's not what's at question. Children's Health Clinic board member Larry Doss believes CHCL is not telling the whole story. "They (board members) believe CHCL is using federal grant money that is provided to 'Presby' and Children's of Lubbock and they are trying to continue to obtain those federal grant dollars without using our (Presby and Children's) services but basically replacing our services with their own staff," said Doss.

Employees have told us they believe Sullivan's plan is also a way to get rid of "Presby" and Children's board members so CHCL can have total control. "I know a number of people on the board that I'm with, and the Presbyterian board, they do believe its a hostile takeover," said Doss.

Rhonda says she would not mind if the plan was the merge all three boards. But she does not like the idea that CHCL will be the only board in operation. "I think the reason why Mike wouldn't come together with the other boards to become one is because he didn't want to have a boss. He's his own boss right now. He tells his board what to do," Rhonda said.

"I have a lot of concern when the CHCL board president refers to him as her boss. I don't think anyone should have that much power," said Janie Gerow, a Clinical Director.

Sullivan's position was originally created to answer to the CHCL board. Now the issue of control is in the hands court system, while employees don't know what is going to happen to their patients. "There's about to be a mass exodus of the clinical expertise. To bring an entire slot of new providers and nurses in to take care of our patients is going to be a travesty for the patients and the community," said Janie.

A hearing set for Thursday was cancelled Wednesday, but set for February 27th. The attorneys for the clinics wants a judge to order CHCL to keep Presbyterian and Children's open to treat patients.

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