******* BREAKING NEWS*******
Gerard managing BRHS’ daily operations

Published 12:45 am Thursday, June 24, 2010

Daily News Staff

Washington native Susan Shaw Gerard is in charge of the day-to-day operations of Beaufort Regional Health System following the resignation Wednesday of CEO Bill Bedsole, a BRHS spokeswoman announced Thursday.
Gerard, who also serves as the health system’s medical practice administrator, is overseeing its operations as called for in the organization’s chain of command, said Alice Mills Sadler, vice chairwoman of the health system’s Board of Trustees.
“She is acting on issues that the (chief executive officer) would operate on by natural chain of command under the health system’s succession policy,” Mills Sadler said, adding that Gerard and other members of the health system’s leadership team are in constant contact with members of the medical community and the health system’s board.
That board is scheduled to meet Tuesday.
“The hospital is in good hands,” Mills Sadler said.
Under the hospital’s organizational chart, Gerard, Christopher Riggs and Lynne Fisher each reported equally to Bedsole, said Pam Shadle, hospital spokeswoman. Riggs is on medical leave. Fisher is director of nursing.
A special meeting of the health system’s board, called for Thursday by Mills Sadler, was canceled after it was decided to follow the health system’s organizational chart in naming a new leader, Shadle said.
Gerard’s new duties come at a crossroads for the Beaufort County Medical Center, formerly Beaufort County Hospital.
The health system’s board of trustees and the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners are discussing whether the hospital should merge with a larger health-care entity or remain independent.
On Tuesday, the health system’s board is scheduled to discuss whether to move forward with requests for proposals to “lease, sell or otherwise convey” the hospital and other health-care operations to one of 10 health systems that have shown interest in receiving the proposal, according to an announcement of the meeting.
On Tuesday, the county commissioners are scheduled to give County Manager Paul Spruill directions concerning various loan proposals that would ensure repayment of $1.57 million in debts owed to the county by the health system on a recent construction loan.
After giving his 100-day notice, Bedsole was put on administrative leave until Tuesday, Edwin M. “Sandy” Hardy, trustees chairman, told the Daily News in an interview Wednesday.
“We appreciate Mr. Bedsole’s dedication and service to our hospital and the health system and wish him well in his future endeavors,” Hardy said in announcing Bedsole’s resignation. “In the interim, the remaining members of our administrative team, with guidance from the Board of Trustees, will continue leading the daily operations of the health system and meeting our mission of providing safe, high-quality health care to our patients.”
In the Wednesday interview, Hardy said Bedsole had been troubled by the ongoing dispute among the health system’s trustees and the county commissioners over whether the hospital should merge with a larger health-care entity or try to continue to operate as an independent hospital.
Bedsole was troubled by the continued efforts of some hospital trustees to drag out the merger process and the effects of such a delay on the quality of medical care, Hardy said.
Thomas Penders, a local psychiatrist and Beaufort County Medical Center’s chief of staff, agreed with Hardy’s assessment.
“Bill felt that the board members who wanted to drag out the process were damaging the hospital,” Penders said.
He praised Bedsole as a “dedicated leader,” adding that he feared Bedsole had become a “scapegoat” for the difficulties the health system faces.
“This is more bad news for Beaufort County Hospital,” he said.
Hood Richardson, a hospital trustee and county commissioner, said many people in the community appear to be blaming him for Bedsole’s resignation.
“The best thing I can do is ‘no comment,’” he said. “And I’m usually pretty mouthy.”
He also said the trustees have not yet accepted Bedsole’s resignation.
Trustees Jack Piland and Grace Bonner also praised Bedsole for his years of service during a difficult time for the health-care industry.
They said they were “disappointed,” but not surprised, by Bedsole’s resignation, given the harsh political climate.
“I had talked with him at length and had a tremendous amount of concern for him,” Piland said. “It was beginning to wear on him.”
Trustee Clifton Gray III also said he was surprised by Bedsole’s resignation.
“It wasn’t expected that he resigned,” Gray said. “We thought that he would continue to lead the hospital.”