Nashville's Hospital Authority has approved a six-month contract extension for its CEO, though several board members wanted a longer-term agreement as a sign of stability.
After more than a century in business, General Hospital is undergoing a major restructuring initiated by Mayor Megan Barry, who wants to close down inpatient care at the safety-net facility. She argues there's a more efficient way to use more than $50 million a year in taxpayer funding going toward the hospital.
"I think six months sends the wrong message," said board member Frank Stevenson. "It sends a message of, 'We're not sure.' And for the staff here, for the hospital, for the community, I would have preferred we would have sent a different message."
As a vote of confidence, Stevenson proposed a two-year deal for Joseph Webb, who was hired in January of 2015. His first contract that pays him $350,000 a year ends Jan. 4.
Only recently has the Hospital Authority conducted a performance review, though one was supposed to be done every year. And at Thursday night's meeting, the board avoided public discussion of any particulars.
Sara Finley, who is part of the panel's HR committee, came closest to revealing what the recent review found, saying that some of Webb's deficiencies are "core" to areas the hospital needs to turn around.
"I feel like we're glossing over the performance issues that were identified, that I think we need an opportunity to speak with Dr. Webb about and get improvement in those areas," Finley said, arguing against any more than a six-month extension of Webb's employment.
Finley said the board will need to revisit Webb's employment when the city determines the fate of General Hospital. Even then, it's unlikely that inpatient care would end suddenly on July 1 of 2018, and an additional extension would be needed.
Currently, General Hospital has more pressing concerns, like making payroll at the end of January. The facility expects to run out of operating funds Jan. 30. Executives have made a supplemental budget request to the Metro Council, just as they asked for a mid-year cash infusion last year. But they don't expect a vote on the funds until Jan. 16.