Feb. 16, 2005 Maureen Rabsatt-Cullar was fired as St. Thomas East End Medical Center executive director Monday.
Rabsatt-Cullar, former Legislature executive director, took over the center director's job in January 2002.
She said Wednesday she was not taken completely by surprise by the board's action. " They have harassed me and members of my staff consistently. They suspended me without pay because I told them I felt the people I serve in the community are my bosses, and not the board. The board told me I was there to serve them, not the community."
Tensions have been mounting at the center over the past year, Rabsatt-Cullar said.
Rabsatt-Cullar said she was to have appeared at a Senate hearing Monday, but she had written saying she would be unavailable because of attending the board training workshop at Palms Court Harbor View Hotel.
Rabsatt-Cullar said, when she and Patricia Fairchild, the federal training director, arrived they were made to wait outside the meeting room and were told they could not come in because the board was in executive session. Fairchild was allowed in the room and, when she came back out to say that Rabsatt-Cullar was to come in,Fairchild looked "astonished," acording to Rabsatt-Cullar, who said Fairchild told her the board had treated her rudely and asked her to leave.
Rabsatt-Cullar said when she went into the room, "The board demanded my resignation, which I refused, and they said in that case, "you're terminated without cause."
Fairchid, vice president of John Snow Inc., an independent Boston, Mass. consulting firm hired by the federal government, said Wednesday she wouldn't comment on Rabsatt-Cullar's remarks other than to confirm that Rabsatt-Cullar was fired. Fairchild was conducting similar training classes for the Frederiksted Health Center, Inc.The East End Center and the Frederiksted Health Center changed three years ago from Health Department agencies to not-for-profit organizations. The East End Center's 13-member advisory board became its governing board.
Rabsatt-Cullar said the board has been out of compliance with federal rules and regulations and that is why the training was being conducted.
Fairchild said Wednesday her job was to make sure the board and the executive director understood their roles and responsibilities. Fairchild said she did not wish to escalate conditions at the center and would not comment further on the training session.
Rabsatt-Cullar said the board is responsible for policy "but they have a tendency to involve themselves in operations." She said its actions put the federal grant, under which it works, at risk.
Meanwhile, Monday the Senate Finance Committee approved a $150,000 grant application to improve oral care. During that meeting, Sen. Norman Jn Baptiste, committee chair, announced that center board chair Lloyd Williams had informed him Rabsatt-Cullar had been fired, according to a report in the Wednesday Avis newspaper.
Rabsatt-Cullar said the center has made much progress in the past three years. "I think the clinic has come a long way," she said. "We have worked very hard in trying to improve conditions and meet the federal mandate."
She said new systems are in place."We have an automated accounting system on board. We've never been able to hire physicians," Rabsatt-Cullar said. "Now we are members of V.I. Equicare, a PPO, preferred provider organization. We function eight hours a day, instead of closing at noon. We have tripled our number of patients in the last two years." She said, "Our staff has worked extremely hard to turn the clinic around. The center now has two pediatricians, two internists, two Ob-gyns, one nurse, and one dentist."
With the grant the Senate approved Monday, that dentist will be able to work on a full-time basis. The center has 30 employees.
Rabsatt-Cullar said, "The Department of Health wanted to sit in on board meetings. They are, basically, the regulatory agency for health in the V.I., and should have the right to attend board meetings if they choose. That was a major problem with the board. They couldn't stop the DOH from sitting in but they were definitely against it."
Rabsatt-Cullar said she doesn't know what is behind the board's decision. "I wasn't aware of any problems to the point where they would fire me," she said. "They felt they paid me enough to work until I dropped dead, and if I did, they'd find someone else." The federal government said the board needed the training, she said. "It may have been retaliatory about that," she said.
One board member Monday said she would resign in protest of the firing. She said Wednesday she does not want to comment until she speaks further with the board.
Rabsatt-Cullar said the board's executive committee, which runs the board, meets frequently, sometimes as much as twice a week.
Board chair Lloyd Williams did not return calls Wednesday. Rabsatt-Cullar said she has not decided on any legal action as yet. "I will wait and see what the federal government says," she said.
Dr. Marilyn Nutter is the center's acting director, after Rabsatt-Cullar's firing.
The 13 sitting board members are: Williams, Kenrick Bukle, Leola V. Hermon, former board chair, Esther Smith, Louise Larcheveaux-Ali, Lennice Gumbs-Elskoe, Pedro K. Williams, Patricia M. Adams, Patricia A. Nathan, Francia M. Brin, Laura T. Daniel, Calvin I. Gottlieb and Shirlene Williams-Lee.
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