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Beacon Archive

August 2003
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PABI Launches a Revised Plan

PABI Sunset Picnic Update

AMVETS sponsor Lake Geneserath Fishing Tournament in September

Washington Islanders visit Beaver and suggest Exchange Trips

Chamber has Big Plans: 2nd Annual Bite of Beaver Island Expanded Fall Events

Weather or Not

On This Date

Studying Art in an Artist's Paradise

The Freedom Schooner Amistad Pays a Call

Nels Peter Sorensen, Jr.: 1938-2003

Aleta Doris Kenwabikise: 1955-2003

Proposed Downtown / Public Beach Parking Lot

Museum Week 2003

Wildlife Club News

Charlevoix County Commissioners Meeting Report

News From the Townships

A Challenge to the BIRHC Board

The Opposition Organizes

Letters to the Editor Regarding the BIRHC

From the Board: About the Current Controversy

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A Challenge to the BIRHC Board

On July 15th the Beaver Island Rural Health Center Board met at the St. James Township Hall to conduct its regularly-scheduled meeting. It was apparent from the 90 people in attendance that there was much interest in one matter in particular: the non-renewal of Susan Meis's contract.

The non-renewal was on the agenda as item 6Ai, but the audience did not want to sit through two hours of normal business before expressing its concern. As the financial report was unfurled voices were heard asking that 6Ai be moved up. The Board resisted until the fire code was brought up. Moving the meeting was considered, but no other place was available. In the pithy repartee that followed, one Board member spoke without thinking: “We didn't ask you to come; you invited yourselves.” The response was an instantaneous blend of anger and refutation, with more than one person reminding the speaker that when questions about policy were brought up at a special meeting called for another purpose, the public had been specifically invited to attend regular meetings.

Following the uproar over this gaffe the Board consented to turn to the non-renewal. A sheet of paper was circulated: those who wanted to speak had to sign to get two minutes of remarks. It quickly became apparent that the people in the audience felt a great and grave injustice had been done as person after person testified that Susan Meis's availability as a health care provider was an important part of their ability to enjoy their time on Beaver Island, each accolade producing a round of spontaneous applause.

Most of the comments cited examples of Susan's excellent diagnostic and treatment skills. She was said to be hard-working, friendly, and caring. “Susan was always very professional.” “Susan corrected the doctor's incorrect diagnosis.” “Susan is the only person who helped me.”

She was also said to have a feisty attitude at times: “She is a rose. She has thorns. Most of us are weeds.” “She gives as well as she gets–which is why I like her.” It was hoped that her independence and lack of political savvy was not the root cause of her non-renewal.

Other comments revealed a dissatisfaction with the Board's attitude and behavior, which was perceived to be unconcerned about their feelings. Speakers wanted to know if the Board had violated the Open Meetings Act in deciding Susan's future. Lingering disapproval of the Transition Manager's salary and the Board's tabling of an application for Board membership were also factors in the level of antagonism.

Although the Board cited confidentiality requirements, there were repeated questions of what she had done to deserve non-renewal. The Board stated that it had to make decisions for the good of the BIRHC. President Connie Wojan said that she had been very impressed with how Susan had cared for her mother in the last year of her life, but could not convince the audience to trust the Board's decision without knowing why. So reluctantly she said that Susan was not a team player, and cited an example.

pparently pressed by the staff, Susan, the senior employee, demanded a meeting with Connie to air grievances about the Transition Manager. This threatened to undue the efforts the Board had been making to distance itself from the daily operation of the BIRHC, and was the culmination to “a pattern of unprofessional behavior.”

Some of the mechanics of the non-renewal were revealed. It seemed the Transition Manager campaigned for this, talking to small groups of Board members until the necessary mandate was achieved.

EMS representative to the Board (and Board member) Gerald LaFreniere returned from an emergency and asked whether Susan had a just cause clause in her contract, or should have. Gauging the public sentiment, he moved that the Board reconsider. Paul Nelson said that he wished they had taken more time to resolve the conflict, and yet no member of the Board was willing to second Gerald's motion. Don Spencer defended the hiring of Arlene, stating that both Township supervisors had grown frustrated with the Medical Center not having a manager. Further, he said, when State inspectors looked over the operation of the Med Center they questioned whether such haphazard methods would be able to cope with the expanded operation that was anticipated in the new facility. While all the problems had not yet been corrected, he added, great progress had been made. To someone who cited a bill that was still in error, he explained that some accounts required up to 40 hours to straighten out.

The audience was far from satisfied. Its grumbling became angrier and more vocal. Connie Wojan had done a good job of keeping control, but she began to wilt under the continuing vituperation. She cited the constant workload she has maintained, doing such things as scrubbing the urinals in the Hall so the BIRHC could raise another $1,200 and sitting in the sweltering sun in McDonough's parking lot to sell chances on the truck. She was so harried by the audience's aggressive attitude that she wanted to quit, she said, but she knew better than to make such an important decision in the heat of the moment. But she was too upset and exhausted to continue–she had also chaired an early meeting with Bob Tambolini on developing a capital campaign to support the new facility. The Board decided no progress was likely to be made, and the meeting, after 2 ½ hours, was adjourned.

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