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More on what's going on at Indian River Medical Center

STORY BY MEG LAUGHLIN (Week of February 20, 2014)

The Indian River Medical Center has made it clear in recent weeks it greatly objects to a number of our recent stories that have focused attention on operational and financial problems at the hospital.

On the other hand, trustees of the Indian River County Hospital District, which provides millions in taxpayer funding to the medical center, and physicians tell us that unless the extent of the problems is brought to public attention, they see little likelihood of them being remedied.  

Here’s another story that sheds light on what’s going on at Indian River Medical Center. After reading this, go to and tell us whether you think we should – or should not – run stories on efforts to improve the situation at the hospital.

On Tuesday night, Feb. 11th, the Medical Executive Committee of Indian River Medical Center met in the board room of the hospital. The committee consists of 17 doctors, who represent more than 240 physicians and surgeons in the county. Most of the 17 were present at the dinner meeting.

Also present were hospital CEO Jeff Susi and hospital CFO Greg Gardner, who had been informed in advance about what was scheduled to happen: One of the doctors would present a motion for a vote of no-confidence in Susi as CEO. Another would second it. Discussion would follow, and there would be a vote.

Doctors said before the meeting they expected a majority of the Medical Executive Committee to adopt the resolution of no-confidence.

As expected, the no-confidence motion was made by one of the physicians present (we have decided not to publish his name), listing concerns physicians had with the quality of patient care at Indian River Medical Center. It was seconded by another of the physicians (name also withheld).

Several of the doctors proposed scheduling a special meeting for a lengthy discussion of the motion, and Susi’s role in the problems.  Other doctors urged that the discussion take place immediately. The latter won out, and Susi and Gardner were asked to leave so the discussion could take place.

They refused.  According to several of those present, who spoke to Vero Beach 32963 off the record, Susi appeared “visibly nervous,” but said he accepted responsibility for the hospital’s problems.

Doctors talked about staff shortages and the problems they caused, which included delayed surgeries because of too few scrub techs; ICU nurses forced to answer the phones; and floor nurses having to clean rooms. They also complained that the average Emergency Department wait time had increased to “more than six hours.”

Susi said these things had unfortunately occurred because he approved deep staff cuts recommended last year by former CFO Dan Janicak in an effort to get the hospital – which was incurring sizable, unexpected monthly losses – back to a break-even budget.

Susi took responsibility for the debilitating reduction in hospital staff, conceding he could have overturned any of the lay-offs and didn’t.

The doctors – even Susi’s leading critics -- were impressed. At last, several said, Susi was taking responsibility, saying he was “the leader,” and the problems at the hospital were his fault.  Then he promised the physicians to “increase staffing immediately.” 

Susi told the doctors he and Gardner would come up with the money, according to those present. He did not say where the money would come from.

Nevertheless, the doctors present were sufficiently encouraged by his promise that they withdrew the motion for a no-confidence vote, agreeing that it could be presented again at a subsequent meeting if there is no early progress.

Susi did not respond to an interview request, but this past Monday, he sent an email to many members of the community apologizing for “long waits” at the Emergency Room, but stating that “numerous steps” have been taken to improve patient flow and that ”as a result of these improvements, we have seen a drop in waiting times. . .

“The average time for patients who require admission after the initial assessment in the ED has decreased by almost 90 minutes,” Susi said.

“The total time for patients not admitted – which includes the time from arrival to the time they are discharged home after undergoing tests and seeing a physician – has decreased to an average of three hours. The national average is four and a half hours.”

He did not indicate what period these statistics covered.

“We have a lot more to do, but be assured we are all working together to improve the Emergency Department at IRMC,” Susi concluded.