Salard to WMC board: ‘Ask another attorney’
For nearly the first twenty minutes – and a later part of the Nov. 28 meeting of the Wrangell Medical Center Board of Directors – concerned citizens spoke up during public comment about the credentialing of Alaska Island Community Services physician Greg Salard and included a pointed request coming from the doctor himself.
Salard, who has not worked in the medical center since losing his credentialing in March when the former board, acting as a “fair hearing committee” made the decision, was supported by a number of Wrangell residents.
After handing out a pair of letters from WMC attorney Roger Hillman and Salard’s counsel, Danielle Ryman, Billie Younce was the first to speak up in defense of Salard’s quest to regain the ability to practice at the hospital.
“I don’t understand why you guys have not considered the offer of mediation as a means of the solution to getting Dr. Salard back his privileges,” Younce said. “It’s going to resolve Dr. Salard’s suit with the WMC and the citizens of Wrangell, so that they can get their doctor back, and to help take a huge step forward in the healing of this town. Instead, you guys have once again thrown up a big roadblock in getting this entire matter resolved.”
Younce then pointed out that she believes some members of the board were holding a personal grudge against Salard, rather than working to end his nearly nine-month wait to regain privileges.
“The WMC board was elected by the people of Wrangell to oversee our healthcare on this island and when a viable option was proposed to you guys, once again, what looks like a personal difference took precedence over our healthcare and doing the right thing,” she added.
Salard also spoke up – and questioned the legal basis of dismissing his appeal.
“Why should I give up my rights by dismissing the appeal with prejudice?” Salard asked, continuing, “On the hope that you guys would make the right decision. I trust most of you. There are a couple on the board that, quite frankly, I don’t trust. For the most part, I trust the members of the board to do the right thing. It still doesn’t belie the fact that I didn’t do anything wrong. The previous board and the previous administrator that was recalled and fired did this to me for political reasons. Plain and simple.”
Salard then launched into an impassioned speech about what he sees as an issue with the attorneys representing WMC and their interpretation of a judge’s order which they say requires him to drop his case before being reconsidered.
“That’s your attorney’s interpretation. That’s your attorney’s interpretation,” Salard said. “The same attorney that advised the previous board. The same attorney who the previous board’s defense is ‘we acted on the advice of counsel.’ They got recalled. We’re being sued by the city (and) currently they’re not able to reach an agreement because of what may or may not be a computer somewhere. This is the same attorney that your insurance company is paying for. So, you all keep listening to his advice. I’ve got three attorneys that told me, ‘No,’ the judge did not mean that. The judge would never have made someone give up his rights on the hope that he might get something down the road. That’s ridiculous. Ask another attorney.”
Salard added that attorneys for the medical center turned an offer of mediation down “flatly.”
Bill Knecht then gave what was the most emotional statement of the night when he told the board about Salard’s long-term treatment for a family member – and of not being able to utilize Salard in an end-of-life situation dealing with his mother-in-law.
“My mother-in-law passed away last night,” Knecht began. “Dr. Salard has been her doctor for the last four years. She fell ill suddenly and as cranky and cantankerous as she is, she said she did not want to go to the hospital. I called up Dr. Salard and asked him if he could go over to her house and, not to do a physical exam, but with his trained eye, just (say) either ‘take two aspirin and call me in the morning’ or go to the hospital. He glanced at her and said ‘you’re going to the hospital.’ He called the ambulance.”
According to Knecht, what happened after Salard’s arrival at the hospital is his bone of contention with the physician not being able to work in the hospital with his patients.
“He raced the ambulance up to the hospital like a good doctor should,” Knecht said. “Instead of going into the emergency room he went to his office to get the medical files and handed them over to another doctor. There is something wrong with that… you guys have the authority and the power to make a decision right now. Instead of having an attorney pull your strings as puppets and prolong the Salard’s agony of going through all this. You guys could make a decision tonight and, regardless of what you guys are thinking, think of the people of Wrangell.”
Later in the evening, during board comments, member Judy Allen spoke forcefully in defense of Salard.
“I totally share the frustration with the people who have spoken about how long it has taken this board to do nothing with respect to Dr. Salard’s credentialing,” Allen said. “The recall was in June. Everyone who was up for recall was recalled and I don’t think there is anybody that doesn’t believe that the reason that ninety percent of the people voted to recall them was due to the vindictive and unfair treatment that was perpetrated against Dr. Salard. It took almost two months for there to be an election and then we were seated on August 28, and now we’re three months further down the road than that and nothing has happened.”
Holding up the letters from Ryman and Hillman, Allen continued.
“I see things like this and I believe that Mr. Hillman (is) not making any serious effort to carry out the wishes of this board,” she added. “I don’t see that he is doing that at all.”
Members Barbara Conine and Dorothy Hunt-Sweat echoed Allen’s sentiment, while Terri Henson spoke up about the perception that the board is dragging its feet on the issue.
“I for one don’t feel that we have not been moving forward,” Henson added. “We have been moving forward, it’s just that it hasn’t been at the pace we would have liked to have seen. Part of that is the fact that we do have to consult with the lawyers and we do have to take into consideration the information that was given to us that we weren’t able to move forward until some decisions were made on Dr. Salard’s part.”
After a brief exchange between Conine and Henson, board president Woody Wilson cut the discussion short by raising confidentiality issues related to executive sessions.
“Excuse me, but if we’re going to discuss credentialing we need to do that in a proper forum,” Wilson said.
The letters submitted to the board, via Younce, show communication between attorneys Ryman and Hillman where Salard’s offer for mediation in the case was declined by the hospital.
The board took no action in executive session on Salard’s privileging and the next chance for a review will be during the board’s Dec. 19 regular meeting.