Tuton attempts to heal doctor CEO rift

Doctors at the Whitehorse General Hospital were having trouble with Michael Aeberhardt, the CEO. “What happened with the CEO was that patient…

Doctors at the Whitehorse General Hospital were having trouble with Michael Aeberhardt, the CEO.

“What happened with the CEO was that patient care was being affected,” Yukon Medical Association president Rao Tadepalli said on Thursday.

“That’s why doctors raised some concerns.”

Last week, 40 local doctors presented Aeberhardt with a letter demanding his resignation.

Tadepalli confirmed, “The majority of the hospital’s doctors brought forward a private petition.”

He didn’t comment further.

“It was never the intention of the doctors to discuss that in public,” he said.

“Doctors don’t want to politic.

“We only make something an issue if patient care is affected.”

And under Aeberhardt it was, said Tadepalli, citing the hospital’s paging system.

Three months ago, Aeberhardt decided to do away with overhead paging.

He wanted a quieter hospital.

Only individual beepers could be used.

But the beepers didn’t always work, said Tadepalli.

“And in a critical-care situations, where we were trying to reach people, it was hard.”

Doctors were also missing crucial calls from down south with results from CT scans and ultrasounds.

“It was incredibly difficult for these doctors to get back to the doctors who ordered the tests,” he said.

Doctors and nurses tried to reinstate the overhead paging system.

But Aeberhardt “refused to see reason,” said Tadepalli.

“(Hospital board chair) Craig Tuton had to intervene and reverse the CEO’s decision.”

It started a trend.

“Tuton has taken on the responsibility of handling the CEO situation,” said Tadepalli.

“I’m glad because you could have had a hospital chair come on and say, ‘To heck with that,’ and you would have to live with them — we’d be really stuck.”

Tuton has been working with the doctors and relations are on the mend at the hospital, said Tadepalli.

 “The hospital chair has agreed that there is a problem.”

Tuton has started attending meetings and reviewing policy.

“So that the CEO doesn’t have a free hand in policy,” said Tadepalli.

“And we’re certainly glad and happy that Craig Tuton has taken on the responsibility of managing his CEO.

“Reportedly, Aeberhardt is only here for a set period of time, then he’ll be gone.

“So we only have to work together with the hospital board and CEO for a temporary phase.”

During the hiring process, Aeberhardt wasn’t the first choice, said Tadepalli.

“He was No. 2 on the list.”

Tadepalli wasn’t sure why the top candidate didn’t get the job.

“It was something to do with references,” he said.

Tuton intervened in the process, pushing for Aeberhardt to get the job, Liberal leader Arthur Mitchell told the house last week.

But Tadepalli isn’t so sure.

“Tuton just rubber stamped it,” he said.

“I don’t think he was enrolled in getting a YTG political candidate.”

Aeberhardt gets on well with the Yukon government, added Tadepalli.

“It doesn’t matter to me who’s running (the hospital), who’s got hands in what, and who dines with who,” he added.

“Really, what I’m interested in is that the situation improve.

“Politicking isn’t our concern — patient care is our concern.

“And I don’t really care about who is who’s party manager.”

Aeberhardt is very educated, said Tadepalli.

“His communication skills are not the best.

“But we hear that he’s a good captain; we hear that he’s got excellent credentials; we hear he is very good in financial management and project implementation.

“We hear that he’s been excellent with providing figures to YTG.

“We hear that he gets on very well with the hospital chair.

“We also hear that the nursing (association) feels that he is fantastic.

“We hear all this.”

 “So, if everyone is so thrilled to have him, then so are we.”

All doctors want is a high standard of health care, said Tadepalli.

But right now, there are deficiencies.

The hospital is only staffed for 80 per cent of its capacity, he said.

“If it goes to 100 per cent they have to call in the casuals to get the show going.

“That’s an issue.”

There is also a shortage of available beds, said Tadepalli, citing the intensive-care unit.

“This is fallback from the Thompson Centre not opening,” he said.

“People are waiting for long-term beds.”

The hospital also lacks psychiatric treatment facilities.

“We have unstable, mentally ill patients lying in between other medical patients,” said Tadepalli.

 Alcohol- and drug-treatment facilities are lacking, he added.

And the government-run programs at Sarah Steele building “don’t meet the needs.”

The past hospital board and the hospital corporation spent time and money planning to transform the Thomson Centre into an alcohol- and drug-treatment centre, said past board chair Marny Ryder.

But after three years of planning, the board was told the centre would not be used for alcohol and drug treatment.

“I was shocked,” said Ryder.

Tadepalli isn’t sure why the Thomson Centre didn’t become a treatment centre.

“It seemed like a good idea,” he said.

Another issue is staff shortages, said Tadepalli, who heard the hospital is long overdue for a staff review.

“The hospital needs to review the number of full-time positions,” he said.

“And that review hasn’t happened in a while.”

The hospital is currently short of radiographers, he said.

And being even one person short can affect the service.

“It’s not like we have a couple of hospitals where we can say, ‘OK, one hospital is shut down, so the other is taking patients,’” he said.

“Here if one or two ward nurses leave, or one or two radiographers leave, then it tilts the balance in a negative matter very easily.”

The hospital needs more funding, said Tadepalli.

“All of us depend on it as a backbone. And we want the running of the hospital to be taken seriously.

“All we care about is that Yukoners get a standard of health care that we can be proud of and that the YTG give it adequate funding, provide alcohol- and drug-treatment services, provide psychiatric beds, and provide long term beds — that’s what I’m asking.

“We don’t care what role the CEO has in all this with the doctors, as long as we have a working relationship which we can carry on.”