After leading the Gov. Juan Luis Hospital board through several life-threatening crises for three years, Dr. Anthony Ricketts resigned last week to devote more time to his 15-year-old pediatric practice and patients.
“I’ve done three years and always planned to leave at the end of the term,” Ricketts said Tuesday. “And the term was up. I need to redouble my efforts and spend more time in private practice.”
Probably the most critical issue facing the St. Croix hospital during Ricketts’ tenure has been maintaining accreditation by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Without reimbursement for insured patients, the health care facility would lose millions of dollars every year.
In September 2014, CMS threatened to decertify JFL Hospital, citing issues that may have led to five deaths and the lack of board governance. At that time, the hospital’s board lacked a quorum and had been unable to function for more than a year.
The territorial hospital board met rarely during that time, barely approving payments and handling staff issues at the St. Croix hospital.
Kimberly Jones and Troy deChabert Schuster were appointed to the JFL Board shortly after the CMS visit by Gov. Kenneth Mapp and worked with Ricketts and board members Philip Arcidi and Joyce Heyliger to meet a nine-month deadline to avoid decertification.
For the last year, Ricketts and the hospital board have scrambled to pay vendors, purchase medications and supplies, improve patient care, streamline patient flow in the emergency room and maintain sufficient staff to operate the facility.
Last week, the hospital was given an extension by CMS and will continue to participate in the Medicare program while making improvements under a systems improvement agreement until Dec. 31.
Ricketts has dealt also with turmoil within the hospital administration, public criticism from senators and the former governor, and daunting financial problems that continue to threaten to cause the facility to bleed out.
Citing “good teamwork,” Ricketts told the Source that the hospital board, including new member Vera Falu, should continue to focus on patient safety and quality of care at the hospital.
The most difficult part of serving as board president, he said, was the negativity encountered daily. However, he said the feeling of being involved and serving the community has made the experience worthwhile.
Virgin Islands law stipulates that one trustee be a member of the medical community but prohibits hospital staff from holding the position. Ricketts said he is working with the JFL medical leadership to recommend his replacement but that no one had been chosen as of Tuesday.
Ricketts said he plans to remain involved with the hospital and is “willing to do whatever I can as an ex-board member.”
“In no way have I separated myself from the hospital,” he said.
Ricketts graduated from the College of Medicine at the University of Lagos, Nigeria. He completed his pediatric residency at the Brooklyn Hospital Center in New York and moved to St. Croix in 1999.
He served as pediatrician and as the director of the Frederiksted Health Center. He also worked with the Health Department’s Maternal and Child Health program from 2006 to 2008 and has been the pediatrician for the Sister Emma Cottage at Queen Louise Home for Children since 2006.
Ricketts is a member of the V.I. Medical Society and the National Medical Association, and a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics.