Sitkans unhappy about the departure of Dr. Richard Wein from Sitka Community Hospital took their concerns to the Assembly Tuesday night (02-28-17). At least a dozen residents spoke in support of Wein, a long time surgeon at the hospital. Wein’s contract was terminated by hospital CEO Rob Allen last month, over an undisclosed personnell matter.
For Pat Alexander, the dismissal of Dr. Wein is a personal matter – one that affects the whole community. “I want Sitka Community Hospital to be successful. But I would say that of all of the mistakes that I’ve seen, since I’ve been back in 1998, this is without exception the worst. I’m deeply ashamed of the way that he’s been treated,” Alexander said.
Mayor Matthew Hunter reminded citizens at the top of the meeting that the Assembly may not direct the appointment or removal of a city employee. “The way our charter is written – which is our constitution for our city – the Assembly is forbidden from intervening in any personnel matter unless it is our attorney or our administrator,” he said.
Other citizen voiced concern about the future of Sitka Community Hospital, which has been in talks with SEARHC for months about collaboration. ECG Managements Consultants will likely recommend a merger of the two operations. While a merger is not officially on the table, the possibility of one did not sit well with Rita Goodrich. “In times of effective management, Sitka Community Hospital has offered charity care to patients who cannot afford their healthcare needs. One of my brothers is alive today because of this human and noble program. These qualities are unique to SCH and cannot be provided by SEARHC hospital,” Goodrich said. “SCH is a pillar and needs our protection and understanding in our town.”
Lucy and Rich Phillips said they decided to retire in Sitka because of city-owned medical care and is disappointed in the direction of the two hospital conversation. Lucy said, “Our cost of living is going up. Our access to our physicians is changing. And it just bothers me. It’s not right. And I don’t want to get up in the morning and feel like things aren’t right in Sitka. I want to be happy to be here, as I’ve been for the last 35 years.”
ECG will present their their recommendation jointly to the Assembly and the hospital board in the coming weeks.
During the same meeting, the Assembly supported the city in closing a loophole in the sales tax code (Interpretation SGC 4.09.100(P)). They determined that products purchased within Sitka, but then resold outside of Sitka were still taxable. In special reports, the Assembly also received an update from the Sitka Sound Science Center, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.