For the second time in just over a year, a high-profile figure over at St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital has been shown the door, ostensibly because they don’t fit into future plans for the facility.
On Thursday, chief financial officer Malcolm Hopkins was dumped by CEO Paul Collins.
“I think change is a part of organizational life,” Collins said in an interview with the Times-Journal. “I’m trying to plan for the long-term future of STEGH and Malcolm has served this hospital for 11 years.”
Well if he has served the organization well, why was he unceremoniously dumped?
And why was the internal communication at the hospital a little on the vague side?
Paul Bode, chairman of the board of governors, was under the impression Hopkins had retired when we talked to him on Thursday.
“Malcolm just made the decision (to retire) yesterday (Tuesday) morning. He decided it was probably time to retire. It’s my impression that he retired. That’s how it was presented to me.”
An odd way to send off a long-standing player on the team.
We talked to Collins earlier this year about the hiring of Hopkins in 2002, in light of the revelation in this corner Hopkins was employed by The Kerkhoff Group, a B.C. construction, property development and building products manufacturing group of companies that went “spectacularly bankrupt around 1994″ – Hopkins’ description of the meltdown.
In the aftermath, Hopkins was ordered to pay $10,000 and was issued with a five-year director/officer ban with conditions in 1997 by the British Columbia Securities Commission.
We’ll let Collins recreate the scene at that time.
“A search for Vice President and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) was undertaken by STEGH in late fall 2001. STEGH was under significant financial pressure with accumulating debt and year-over-year deficits. Skilled financial leadership was required to help lead the difficult process to move the financial status of the hospital to a solid operating and debt position,” Collins wrote in an email.
As it turns out, Hopkins won out over 84 candidates from Canada and several other countries who applied for the position. This was reduced to a short list of 10 individuals interviewed by the hospital CEO and the vice-president of human resources. Well, it just so happens the hospital CEO at that time was Collins, promoted to the post in September, 2001.
So Hopkins wins the coveted post and is set loose to lead the hospital out of its financial morass.
With 11 years under his belt we can only assume Hopkins must have turned the horses around, so why the sudden acknowledgment this week he will not be a part of the hospital’s future?
Is Collins now feeling a little squeamish about Hopkins’ previous life in B.C.?
His dismissal comes 13 months after Allan Weatherall was bounced from his position as hospital foundation executive director.
At the time, foundation board president Susan O’Brien explained “The board is seeking leadership that will fit with the future direction of the foundation.”
There we go with future direction again.
When O’Brien and Collins were asked specifically what this new direction is, both were vague at best.
“The foundation board still anticipates a major capital campaign,” advised Collins. “This is all connected to the re-scoped exercise that we are working on with the Ministry of Health and we’re hoping that we have that project.”
And the way to ensure the project proceeds unencumbered is to chuck cumbersome baggage over the side?
City Scope offered Hopkins the opportunity to shed light on what his life will be like post-STEGH and, as expected, he graciously declined.
Might have something to do with a standard no-talk clause in his severance package, which we can only assume was a year’s salary at the minimum, but we’re betting the final tally will approach two years’ compensation to keep the lawyers at bay.
Hopkins did write, “unfortunately I can’t talk about these things. I’m sure you will understand. STEGH is a jewel that many in St. Thomas just don’t want to recognize for reasons I just don’t understand. There are so many great support staff and clinicians who bring their all every day.
“I am proud to have been associated with the hospital and the community for over eleven years. We accomplished many good things and the hospital will, I hope, continue from strength to strength.”
Never has this corner questioned the ability of front-line staff at the hospital. Any success STEGH enjoys is because of these loyal troops.
It’s the decisions from up above that leave you scratching your head.
HAVE YOUR SAY
A T-J reader posted this comment on our Facebook page in response to Hopkins’ departure.
“Hospital president and CEO Paul Collins said in this interview (with reporter Ben Forrest) ‘I think change is a part of organizational life.’ Well if that’s the case, then why the hell is Paul Collins still there as the CEO?”
Do you think Collins’ ever regrets coming back to work just one day after deciding to retire?
Nah, probably not.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“It’s probably a healthy thing to happen. It’s kind of like pruning a plant. We survive and we go on.”
Paul Bode, board of governors chairman at St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital, takes a green thumb approach to the dismissal this week of Malcolm Hopkins, the hospital’s chief financial officer.
City Scope appears Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.