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Luis Hospital CEO Fired Over Financial Concerns

Feb. 19, 2008 — Gregory Calliste was fired as the chief executive officer (CEO) of Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital Monday because of mounting debt, officials said Tuesday.
The St. Croix District Governing Board of Directors decided unanimously to fire Calliste, announcing his replacement Tuesday at a news conference held at the hospital. Selected as the interim CEO is Peter A. Abrahams, who is assuming duties immediately.
"The hospital is almost in a code-red situation," Rivera said.
Luis Hospital is getting deeper and deeper into debt, he said, citing payments to the V.I. Water and Power Authority and the need for supplies. The hospital needs to optimize revenues, take care of collections and look at ways to save money, Rivera said.
Abrahams most recently served as vice president of support services at the hospital. He has served as acting CEO and administrator on call. He managed 160 employees, with responsibility for support services such as nutrition and dietary services, security and transportation, the cardiac center, medical-waste management and more.
Before working at the hospital, Abrahams was the associate campus administrator for operations at the University of the Virgin Islands. In that position he was responsible for planning, budgeting and managing of all business and facilities-management services. He holds several degrees and has a master's degree in public administration from UVI.
Calliste was fired after the board conducting a careful and thoughtful six-to-seven month analysis and assessment, Rivera said, with the financial viability of the hospital a priority.
"We have to re-examine how we do business," Rivera said.
The hospital is in a turnaround mode effective immediately, he said. The turnaround means officials will spend time analyzing needs, looking at trouble spots and making changes to have efficient operations. The process involves staff participation and team building, planning and policy changes, repair and realignment of systems, and eventual transformation of the organizational culture, according to a hospital news release.
The board will find a turnaround consultant to advise both it and the interim CEO. Rivera said the board might bring in additional staff to add outside talents. The executive and administrative staff has basically remained the same, with one appointment and one reassignment.
Calliste became CEO in January 2004. He did a number of worthwhile things for the hospital and will be missed, Rivera said.
Calliste was at the helm in April 2007 when the hospital was re-accredited. The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO), the main hospital and health-care accreditation organization in the United States, came for an unannounced inspection at that time. The previous accreditation inspection in 2004 was announced, but hospital officials were told at the time the next one would be unannounced.
The cardiac catheterization laboratory also got accreditation on Calliste's watch, in May 2006. The unit performs such procedures as angioplasties and inserting stents and pacemakers.
"Calliste brought the hospital a long way in a very short time," said Dr. Kendall Griffith, vice president of the V.I. Cardiac Center.
Some people don't support the board's decision to replace Calliste.
"I disagree with the board's decision," Griffith said. "I think it's a mistake. I support Calliste 100 percent."
Many employees at the hospital said they aren't happy about Calliste leaving.
"We love him — we want him as CEO," said a six-year employee who asked not to be identified.
Another employee who has worked at the hospital for 33 years said she has seen a lot of CEOs come and go: "Calliste was one who did some good here."
An anonymous employee of 12 years said the interim CEO is not a people person.
"I think the governor needs to look into this," she said.
Board members voting for the release of Calliste were Rivera, Wallace Phaire, Dr. Michele Berkeley and Richard Faustine.
"We want to make sure people have an institution that fully meets their needs," Rivera said. "The bottom line is improving operations."
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