The Block Island Times

BIHS struggles with approaches to doctor search

By Gloria S. Redlich | Jun 07, 2014
Photo by: Kari Curtis

A sense of urgency about the current search for a new physician clearly dominated the June 2 meeting of the Block Island Health Services Board of Directors, spilling over at times into contention about the best ways to navigate that search.

Search Committee Chair Dr. Al Casazza reported on the group’s meeting on May 30. He noted the committee had agreed the new physician “must be board certified.” He added that working with a $20,000 budget, the group had begun advertising in The Boston Globe, The Hartford Courant and The New York Times.

Executive Director Barbara Baldwin said she’d also placed an ad in the Rhode Island Medical Journal. Casazza also indicated he was reaching out to several facilities he had worked with in the past.

Casazza said he’d learned that the average starting salary for physicians in Rhode Island was $150,000, whereas in Massachusetts it was $200,000. One member of the search committee, Casazza said, “felt palpably uncomfortable with a salary range around $150,000.”

Casazza, however, felt that the group needed to “be realistic.” President Bob Fallon said, “We’re prepared to be competitive.”

Search committee member Kristin Baumann had put together a comprehensive list of local activities in order to describe island life, Casazza said, and fellow member Nancy Greenaway had come up with a description of what the Block Island School has to offer, in case the candidate has school-aged children. He added, “We’re putting a package together to sell the island to prospective candidates.”

Wanting to move more quickly

Clearly frustrated by the passive situation created by waiting for responses to ads, Fallon expressed concern that too much time might elapse between meetings, and he wanted the group to take a more active stance.

“What kind of steps are you taking? What can your committee do hands-on to take actions to reach out, to explore personal contacts?” Fallon asked. He suggested that Casazza utilize the eight committee members, delegating tasks to them.

Finance Committee Chair Pete Tweedy said, “We have to have faith in the members of our search committee and not micro-manage them.” Fallon responded that he wanted to “make sure tasks [were distributed] and if that is micro-managing, so be it.”

Secretary Sue Hagedorn urged, “Let’s not criticize people who are on the [search] committee; we can offer them our help.” Fallon said, “Al [Casazza] is doing a good job. I just want to make sure he’s using search committee [members].”

Member Pam Hinthorn thought there was little chance of “getting someone through The New York Times or Globe.” Agreeing, audience member Jim Hinthorn said to his knowledge, close to 88 percent of jobs were filled through networking. He also suggested the board think about an affiliation.

Concern for international workers

In her report, Baldwin spoke about the plight of international workers on the island, particularly in accessing medical care. She said typically they have very high deductibles and that the Block Island Chamber of Commerce was helping them get Social Security cards.

Noting that many young people come to the United States unprepared for what is likely to happen, she said they often have difficulty even finding transportation to take them to their employment destinations. “A lot of these people are just dumped into the country and don’t understand what’s going on,” she said.

While acknowledging their need for accessible medical care, Fallon said, “Their problems range from health care to housing to adequate bath facilities. These are social issues outside of our purview.” Hagedorn thought it “still would be good to find out …who’s not getting medical care …. [and] what the needs of international workers are.”

Casazza said, “If we offer them a better experience [when they come here], then they might return.”

Baldwin explained that BIRA had taken on the issue and was working to help the group. She mentioned there had been some discussion of developing an “International Workers Bill of Rights.”

Committees: to meet or not

When asked to account for the work of the Membership Committee, Chair Kay Lewis said the group was “trying to get a meeting scheduled.” She explained committee members were still looking for a convenient date. However, she added, “It’s really not urgent; we don’t have any policy issues that need discussion.”

Fallon objected, pointing out it was “important to have meetings even without full membership of a committee.” Lewis said, “I’m not a fan of holding meetings when we don’t have business to do.”

Disagreeing, Fallon said, “Right now we’re in the process of this year’s membership campaign; we’re asking the community to participate. I do think a major thing like [sending out a letter to the public] is important to report back to the community.”

She said, “I’ve served on the committee for years and we’ve never [been told] when to meet.” Noting he wanted “to be aware,” Fallon said. “I think the entire board needs to have an idea where we are, and I will put it on the agenda for next month about committee meetings.”

When Lewis pointed out the committee had “copied” Fallon on the draft of a membership letter, Fallon replied, “Your committee is working on a letter for membership that has to go out. You didn’t have a meeting. I think you should; we can go back and forth, but … I would like to have as many committee meetings as possible.”

Member Bill McCombe said preparing “the letter was a good intention; maybe in the future we should have more meetings.”


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