ERWIN — Jim Pate is out as chief executive officer for Unicoi County Memorial Hospital following the hospital Board of Control’s acceptance of his resignation on Monday.
The UCMH Board of Control met in a called session on Monday afternoon where its members unanimously voted to accept Pate’s resignation, which was effective on Monday. On June 18, the board also met in a called session. At the conclusion of that meeting, the board’s Executive Committee met to discuss what it felt was the best course of action concerning Pate, board member and Unicoi County Chairwoman Sue Jean Wilson said previously. She said other board members were subsequently contacted to get their approval on the decision.
It was decided that Pate would be placed on a 30-day paid administrative leave, and members of the Board of Control met with him on June 22 to present him with a letter notifying him of the decision. In previous interviews, both Wilson and Board of Control Chairman Todd Love cited Pate’s recent health issues as the reason for the decision.
Toni Buchanan, the hospital’s financial officer, had been filling in as interim CEO since Pate was placed on leave.
At Monday’s meeting, Love presented members of the Board of Control with a letter of resignation written by Pate, which members read silently. Board member Jimmy Erwin made the motion to accept the resignation, which was seconded by Wilson.
In the letter, Pate requested that his leave be extended for another 30 days and that his resignation become effective on Aug. 22.
Board member Russell Brackins said the decision to place Pate on administrative leave did not relate to his health as previously stated and said other reasons led to the board’s decision.
“He understood that and we discussed it,” Brackins said, adding that Pate was verbally told that he would not return as CEO after July 22 unless the Board of Control decided otherwise.
Brackins also said while he saw no problem paying Pate through the Aug. 22 date, he said he felt an effective date of Aug. 22 for Pate’s resignation could present “potential problems” as Pate would still hold the title of hospital CEO until then.
At a March meeting of the UCMH Board of Control, Wilson made a motion asking the board to consider asking Pate to resign as CEO due to a decline the hospital’s financial status since 2004. This motion failed due to a lack of a second. At that meeting, Wilson also made a motion that the hospital’s employees be surveyed to gauge whether they felt the hospital was being administered properly. That motion was rejected after a roll call vote.
“Each of you know how I’ve felt for several months, and I think now is the time to set sail on a different ship,” Wilson said.
After some further discussion, Erwin withdrew his motion and another motion was made that the board would accept Pate’s resignation if he agreed to make it effective Monday and that he would receive severance equal to his benefits through Aug. 22, with the exception of health benefits.
Love held a brief recess, during which he contacted Pate. After their conversation, Love said Pate agreed to change his resignation date to be effective on July 9.
“Mr. Pate stated to me on the phone that he would change his date to July 9 as his effective resigning and that all benefits would be paid except for the insurance,” Love said. “The health insurance would be going off as of tomorrow.”
Love said the total of Pate’s 30-day salary plus with other benefits to be paid would total $29,114.66.
Love declined the Press’ request to provide a copy of Pate’s letter of resignation. Pate, who was not present at the meeting, said Monday evening that the board’s action was “pretty much what I had agreed with them to do,” but declined further comment.
The board also approved a consulting contract with Spectrum Health Partners. The hiring of a consulting firm was a caveat of an agreement the hospital’s Board of Control has with the town of Erwin, which was put into place when the town’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted to loan the financially-struggling hospital $800,000.
Erwin Town Recorder Randy Trivette said the consultant’s full study will include actions such as a strategic review of the hospital, a financial statement review and revenue cycle review. The full review of the hospital’s operations would take 45-60 days to complete, Trivette said. The contract is for an amount not to exceed $60,125.
Trivette said the consulting firm would provide the results of an initial study within two weeks that would provide the hospital with an idea of the direction it should take regarding its future.
By a 5-2 vote, the board also approved the hiring of an interim consultant CEO. Jete Edmisson, who has prior hospital administrative experience, will fill that role. Per the board’s vote, Edmisson will be employed for 30 days, and will be paid a salary of $25,000. A $15,000 consulting fee was also included in this contract. The board authorized this $40,000 to be taken from the hospital’s line of credit. Wilson and Erwin voted against the measure to hire Edmisson.