Former Wilcox CEO slams HPH
A bad deal, the Kauai physician contends
LIHUE » Dr. Lee Evslin, former Wilcox Hospital chief executive officer, criticized his former employers for caring more about a budget than Kauai patients.
In an open letter to the community this week, Evslin also called for a review of the 2001 merger between Hawaii Pacific Health and Wilcox Hospital.
He said all decisions are made on Oahu by HPH, and that is why more than a dozen physicians have resigned in the past two years and nurses are on strike. A clinic in Kilauea decided to leave the Wilcox Medical Clinic system last month.
Evslin's letter, "Wilcox Health and the broken promise," was published Thursday on the editorial page of Kauai's community newspaper, the Garden Island.
Nurses at Wilcox, Kauai's lone full-service hospital, have been on strike for nearly a month.
Lani Yukimura, Wilcox spokeswoman, said Thursday that she was aware of the letter.
"We saw it and are working on a response," she said Thursday afternoon, but she did not return Star-Bulletin calls yesterday.
Evslin, who was part of the negotiating team that completed the merger, said Hawaii Pacific Health has repeatedly broken promises made to the community during the merger.
"I felt the community really doesn't understand" the problems between Wilcox and HPH, said Evslin, a pediatrician at Wilcox for 27 years, in an interview following the letter. "I did my best to be quiet, but it really needs" to be addressed.
According to Evslin, what started as a good deal for both sides has turned into a "takeover" of the rural hospital.
Instead of becoming an equal partner in the HPH system, Wilcox has become controlled by the hierarchy on Oahu, with high-level administrators forced out, Evslin contends.
"We lost control of everything we did here," said Evslin. "All real decisions come from Oahu."
"The real issue is trust," he said. "All the physicians felt disempowered."
Evslin said that at a rural hospital such as Wilcox, a budget should be created with an eye toward the services the hospital can provide.
"The sense at Hawaii Pacific Health was that it was all bottom-line driven," he said.
While the idea behind the merger was to help manage the debt of the hospital, losses have "dramatically increased," Evslin said in the letter. "Wilcox Health has been charged millions of dollars to help pay for the cost of HPH's Oahu-based administration."
Although the hospital was recently outfitted with a state-of-the-art operating room and imaging system, the drawbacks of the merger greatly outweigh the benefits, he added.
"This merger seemed pretty good for the first two years," Evslin said, adding that it became apparent two years ago that the decision-making philosophy had changed.
"The final year, I fought them very hard," said Evslin, who resigned nine months ago because he "couldn't agree" with the company's decisions.
The merger did look good for the community "on paper," he said, "but in life it did not."