Members of the Sutton County Hospital Board of Directors and Hospital CEO John Graves were notified Monday evening of the decision by Connected Healthcare Solutions to withdraw from providing services to the hospital district.

During their regular meeting Monday, July 9, the hospital board approved to hire Connected Healthcare Solutions to complete an Operation Assessment of Lillian M. Hudspeth Memorial Hospital. Lance Keilers, President of CHS, began work the following day.

Keilers sent the email dated August 6, 2018, at 5:17 p.m., after regular business hours, explaining his decision to sever the relationship between his company and the Sutton County Hospital District.

The email was specifically directed towards Mark Edwards, Board President and Graves, Hospital CEO.

Keilers cited his decision to withdraw his company’s services after speaking individually with hospital staff, employees and three board members, according to the email.

“Over the last month, I have reviewed the information provided by the hospital and have met onsite with hospital staff and visited with three board members (at their request). It has become very clear that the local politics has adversely affected the delivery of healthcare in the community as well as caused dissention [sic] among the employees and board members. It is my opinion that an operational assessment by my company will in no way determine a feasible solution for the Board of Directors and CEO to work amicably in the future,” Keilers said. “Outside of working collaboratively as a Board and CEO team, options for future success are limited. The Board needs to come together for the sake of the Hospital and community.”

Keilers further suggested making changes if necessary to move forward in an effort to resolve current issues between the board and the hospital administrator.

“If the board has lost confidence in the CEO they should make changes accordingly. If the CEO no longer feels he can be successful based on interactions with the board he should act accordingly. Based on this, I am providing notice to you that Connected Healthcare Solutions, LLC is withdrawing as the consultant for the Sonora Hospital’s Operational Assessment. As it currently stands, I will not allow the reputation of my company or any report provided by me to be used for political purposes by either side,” Keilers said. “I would encourage both parties, the Board and CEO, to collectively decide a path going forward that would take into consideration the patients and community. The Sonora Hospital has a wonderful history, provides valuable healthcare services, and your patients deserve the best care, unencumbered by personal agendas or political bias. You also have a new physician that deserves the support of the full Board and CEO without the politics. Without it he probably will not stay long.”

Additionally, Keilers specified he does not have a signed contract for services. As well, he has not received any payment to date. If payments have been made, he agreed to return them.

Graves, Hospital CEO, was out of town during the time Keilers spent interviewing hospital staff. He was scheduled to meet with Keilers Tuesday, August 21. Graves said he has not had any conversations with Keilers since the July 9 board meeting and he was surprised when he received the email.

“This is a shock. I did not expect this would happen,” Graves said. “I haven’t talked with him [Keilers] yet. We were supposed to meet on the 21st. I am shocked. I didn’t particularly like his comments in the email because he made it sound like I am part of the problem. I have never told the board that I wouldn’t work with them.”

Wednesday morning Graves elaborated more on the matter adding that he thinks comments in the email are misleading to some degree and without foundation. Graves said his hope is and always has been that the board and administration can work together for the best interest of the community. Additionally, Graves said the feedback he received from the staff has been positive overall adding to his confusion about Keilers’ decision to withdraw. Finally, Graves said he thinks the decision by Connected Healthcare Solutions to withdraw is serious and sends a strong message to the hospital board as well as the community.

Edwards said he also was surprised by the email and Keilers decision.

“I am surprised. I just found out and I don’t know that I’ve processed it yet. I really haven’t had time to think about it. I’m not sure what the next step is. I do think an Operational Assessment is important. We have a board meeting this Monday. It will be a board decision. Whatever we do, we have to do it jointly.”

Keilers said although he would rather not comment on the specifics of his decision, he is willing to return at a later date once issues between the board and the administration have been resolved. He confirmed he interviewed individuals as part of a preliminary assessment. There is not a signed engagement agreement and he has not received any money for his work.

“I said in the email that the local politics are affecting the delivery of healthcare in the community. Until the politics are resolved I think an Operational Assessment would have been a waste of taxpayer dollars. And, that is not fair to the community,” Keilers said.

This story was updated at 1:45 p.m. Wednesday, August 8, to reflect additional comments made by hospital CEO John Graves.