As COVID-19 numbers surge in Maine, a number of employees at Calais Regional Hospital are demanding the termination of hospital CEO Rod Boula.
“The employees believe very strongly that his leadership — or lack of leadership rather — has harmed the hospital,” says Todd Ricker, lead labor representative for the Maine State Nurses Association, which represents 44 employees at the 25-bed hospital. “The main takeaway is that these employees care deeply for their hospital, for their patients, for their community. They’ve been doing everything they can, especially in the midst of this pandemic, to give excellent care to their patients, but they’re doing it under extraordinarily difficult circumstances.”
He says 37 members publicly signed a petition of no-confidence.
Ricker says employees are dismayed that the hospital has remained in Chapter 11 bankruptcy for the last year with no apparent plan to fix its financial woes. They also allege the misspending of funds on professional and legal fees, which they say cost the hospital $75,000 per month. And Ricker says staffers are being forced to work back-to-back shifts over multiple days.
“I think the straw that broke the camel’s back was when management came to the bargaining table a couple weeks ago and said that they were going to double and triple the employees’ out-of-pocket insurance costs, whether the employees were willing to agree to it or not,” he says.
Ricker says a strike vote was called — but not acted on — last year to give the hospital time to fix financial, staffing and morale problems.
Meanwhile, Board Chair Ron McAlpine and Vice Chair Everett Libby issued a joint response Thursday afternoon in defense of Boula, saying, “As far as we are concerned CEO Rod Boula is doing what he was hired to do and why would the board want to fire an individual that is doing their job? If it hadn’t been for his efforts there would have been a very good chance that the hospital would have had to close its doors two years ago.”
In an emailed statement, hospital spokesperson Dee Dee Travis says, “The hospital is actively working on many of the issues that the union members state need to be addressed. Sadly, in many instances the union does not share our vision or agree with our solution. However, CRH Administration will continue to speak up for our patients and work for the best interests of our staff as a whole.”
The statement goes on to say that hospital efforts aim to address issues that “need to be tended to, concerns of staff, and the needs of our community while also being acutely aware of the current realities the hospital, and health care industry, is facing,” and that the hospital will not be deterred by what it describes as “attempts of media and public mudslinging being used as a consequence of not agreeing whole heartedly to the union position or demands.”