Evslin out, new team in at Wilcox

Dr. Lee A. “Bill” Evslin, chief executive officer of Wilcox Health System and executive vice president of Hawaii Pacific Health (HPH), and a health-care mainstay in Kaua‘i for 27 years, has resigned from his positions with HPH due to irreconcilable differences with HPH management, he said.

A pediatrician, he had been in that management position since January 2003.

HPH is the parent organization of Wilcox Health, which is comprised of Wilcox Memorial Hospital and Kauai Medical Clinic (KMC).

Chief among Evslin’s concerns was the amount of money charged by HPH leaders for Wilcox Health to be part of the HPH system, he said in his letter of resignation.

Evslin announced his resignation in a letter sent to Wilcox Health employees early Tuesday.

“I feel at this point that HPH administration and I have differences that we are not able to reconcile, and which have become more strained over the past six weeks, so at this time it is best for me to leave the organization.”

With his departure, Registered Nurse Kathy Clark, who also holds master’s and bachelor’s degrees, was recently named to the position of Wilcox Memorial Hospital chief operating of ficer, a hospital executive leadership position, according to Lani Yukimura, Wilcox Health public information officer.

Dr. Ken Pierce, an emergency-room physician who in March became chief medical officer of KMC, assumes executive leadership of the clinic, Yukimura said.

In his letter to Wilcox staff, the popular and respected Evslin mentioned that, about six weeks ago, he brought up several issues that concerned him, including Wilcox Health leaders not having control of the day-to-day management of clinical operations, and rumors concerning the changing ratio of specialists to primary-care physicians.

Evslin said these concerns had been resolved, but the over-riding issue of HPH leaders’ financial demands had not, but hopefully would be addressed as a Wilcox Hospital and KMC board matter.

Evslin thanked Wilcox employees for their support, and for the health care they have provided over the years.

“My best memories always will be of the extraordinary caring that you all bring to each patient,” Evslin said in the letter.

In a brief telephone interview yesterday, Evslin said he felt “good” about his decision. He said he fought for the issues he believed in, and realized he would likely be terminated or have to resign.

“It was time for me to leave,” he said

“There’s a whole bunch of us old-timers who built this (Wilcox Health) system and feel very strongly about it. I feel comfortable moving on in my own life to do something different.”

As for what he will do immediately, Evslin said, “I’ll take a rest. These are pretty interesting times.”

According to a prepared statement by Yukimura, the Wilcox Memorial Hospital board chair and KMC board of directors accepted Evslin’s resignation.

“Of course, a lot of people were disappointed,” said Dr. Arnulfo B. Diaz, who worked with Evslin the pediatrician, clinic chief executive officer, and Wilcox Health chief executive officer.

“Yet we are happy for him, because of the way they (HPH leaders) were treating him. That leaves us without a CEO,” said Diaz, adding that no clinic or hospital board meeting has been called to potentially confirm a successor for Evslin.

“For awhile, it will not be the same,” and some patients and doctors are upset over the change, said Diaz, who has also heard some doctors say they were considering leaving Wilcox Health in the wake of Evslin’s ouster.

“He’s done a lot of good things,” Diaz said of Evslin’s work to fix clinic problems, install the Ala Pono system of patient safety and quality functions, and make other improvements.

Employee morale is low, said Diaz, who hopes the professionals at Wilcox Health will be able to overcome the loss of Evslin.

“We’ll miss him, of course, but he promised he’d be back as a pediatrician again, which is good.”

The remaining doctors and staff will “continue to provide good service because of him. We’ll make sure we continue to provide necessary health care” for residents and visitors, Diaz said.

Clark and Pierce are responsible for all day-to-day and operations activities, and for leading the development of a “Plan for Success” for Wilcox Memorial Hospital and KMC.

Clark and Pierce will report to HPH Executive Vice President Ray Vara, Yukimura said.

In accepting Evslin’s resignation, hospital and clinic board members expressed appreciation for his many contributions to the hospital and clinic over the past three decades.

They noted that Evslin had been instrumental in the growth and development of KMC, that he played a key role in bringing electronic medical records to the hospital and clinic, was a strong force behind Wilcox’s new, state-of-the-art imaging center, which was named the Wilcox Family Imaging Center earlier this year, and its new surgical center, which is due to be completed early next year.

Evslin said it is possible he might return to practice pediatric medicine, and did not rule out working at KMC and Wilcox Memorial Hospital.

In another Wilcox Health personnel matter, Lizanne Gonzalez, manager of the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), resigned late last month.

In an interoffice memo dated Aug. 30, Clark said she accepted the resignation of the eight-year Wilcox Health employee. Clark said she would cover any ICU concerns until an interim ICU manager is named.

Also gone is Paula Dias, who had been Wilcox Health chief operating officer for 16 months. She will be offered an executive position with HPH on O‘ahu, where she lives, HPH officials said earlier.

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