Hospital CEO responds to council criticism

  • Holyoke Medical Center GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

  • Holyoke Medical Center President and CEO Spiros Hatiras GREG SAULMON / THE REPUBLICAN

Staff Writer
Published: 6/23/2020 1:46:23 PM

HOLYOKE — Holyoke Medical Center’s president and CEO is responding to accusations by the City Council president that he communicated poorly about the impending closure of maternity services at the hospital.

In a strongly worded June 18 email, Spiros Hatiras wrote to the entire council, calling for Council President Todd McGee to “correct the record.” At last week’s City Council meeting, McGee called Holyoke Medical Center’s communication with the council over the closing of its Birthing Center “disappointing” as councilors expressed displeasure with the closure.

“I would like to set the record straight on this particular issue as to save everyone and in particular Mr. McGee any public embarrassment,” Hatiras wrote in the email.

McGee did not respond to requests for comment on this story. Hatiras has not responded to several interview requests in recent weeks.

The exchange comes after Holyoke Medical Center notified the state on May 29 that it intends to close its 13-bed obstetrics unit and 10-bassinet infant nursery. In a June 12 email to staffers, Hatiras said that women will still be able to receive prenatal care at Holyoke Medical Center, which he said has recently recruited a new obstetrician. But HMC patients will deliver at Mercy Medical Center, where HMC obstetricians will have privileges, Hatiras added.

At the June 17 City Council meeting, McGee said that the medical center called him only 10 minutes before they were scheduled to discuss the closure on a June 4 conference call. McGee said he said he didn’t receive the message immediately because he was working. Ward 1 Councilor Gladys Lebron-Martinez told the Gazette that it wasn’t until June 5 — a week after the state and HMC staff were notified — that she learned of the hospital’s plans. 

But Hatiras told the council that he has followed appropriate state requirements by notifying relevant local stakeholders of the service closure, including the City Council president, 30 days before the hospital files a formal 90-day notice of the closure to the state Department of Public Health.

“The reason for notifying the president of the city council is to have him/her inform the rest of the council,” Hatiras wrote in his email to the council. “It is not my place to supersede that authority and proceed directly to the city council. The requirement was pretty clear as to what I needed to do.” 

In a lengthy explanation, Hatiras detailed two emails he said he sent and multiple phone calls he said he made to McGee from May 29 through June 4. Those efforts to communicate were unsuccessful, Hatiras said.

Hatiras went on to say that he was able to reach Lebron-Martinez, who had called him on the day she learned of the closure from the Gazette, and that he told her to pass his cell phone number to McGee. He said McGee did not call or email him back.

“I understand that everyone can miss some communication and I do not suggest that Mr.McGee deliberately ignored me or deliberately misled the city council about my lack of communication,” Hatiras said. “It can happen, we are all human. I would however require a public re-statement on the communication issue, to correct the record, so that the citizens of Holyoke know that their local hospital and CEO did not simply decide not to communicate appropriately.”

The City Council decided at its last meeting to request that Hatiras — as well as former employees who have alleged administrators created a hostile work environment at the medical center — testify before the council’s Development and Governmental Relations Committee.

Ward 3 Councilor David Bartley, who chairs that committee, said Tuesday he is not sure when the committee’s next meeting will be.

In a phone interview, Bartley said he had no intention of criticizing the medical center’s CEO. He noted that to his knowledge, the council has not received any communication from Trinity Health, which owns Providence Behavioral Health Hospital and intends to shutter 74 inpatient psychiatric beds there at the end of the month. He said if Hatiras reached out to the council president, he is grateful for that.

Holyoke Medical Center has until June 29 to submit its formal 90-day closure notice, at which point the state Department of Public Health will schedule a public hearing on the closure.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.


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