The chairman of the DCH Health System's Board of Directors published an open letter Friday promising that he is committed to working with community leaders to improve the three hospitals the System operates in Tuscaloosa, Northport and Fayette.

The letter, written by board chair Jim I. Harrison III, follows weeks of criticism levied at DCH over its financial management, long ER wait times, secrecy in leadership and more.

Read more of the Thread's extensive coverage of those issues at this landing page.

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Harrison's letter comes days after DCH's COO Paul Betz announced his intention to resign later this summer, and a month after CEO Bryan Kindred said he would retire, although Kindred will stay within the system as a paid consultant.

In the letter, Harrison said the board would work diligently to understand the System's strengths and weaknesses and work with community leaders, including Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox, Probate Judge Rob Robertson and Northport City Administrator Glenda Webb, to improve the system.

Harrison was also optimistic about the arrival of Katrina Keefer, who will replace Kindred as CEO later this year. Harrison's letter is included in its entirety below.

 

Few things in life are more important than health care. When we have a family member, neighbor or friend who is sick, getting them quality care quickly is what matters most. At DCH, we are proud to have provided quality health care to West Alabama for almost 100 years.

 

We all know the strain and challenges faced over the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is something none of us had seen before. The loss of life and serious illness are tragic and heartbreaking. The strain this has put on our employees and the health system has been significant. No hospital in the country has avoided it. Every hospital has been significantly challenged by it. And because of COVID and additional challenges facing health care, many hospitals did not make it.

 

While we will continue to deal with COVID in some way for the foreseeable future, our DCH board is working diligently to understand the strengths and weaknesses of our health system and how to be a great employer and provide the best health care services possible to the people who live and work in West Alabama.
To be clear, our board – made up of men and women who live in our community – is committed to supporting changes that ensure we see improved patient care in the future. Every person who works at DCH is a valuable team member. To have excellent health care requires excellence from all of our people, from the top down. For our board, everything is on the table when it comes to making DCH even better.

 

In two months, Katrina Keefer will become our new CEO and president. Her extensive experience at UAB in Birmingham, Baptist Health in Montgomery and running a major, billion-dollar health care system in Georgia has clearly demonstrated her depth of experience in understanding the highly complex health care world. But, what was even more impressive to our board and the many members of the community she met with, was her strong leadership style and demands for accountability and quality throughout the organization.

 

We know Katrina will be highly engaged with our community and seek the input of many in our area who want to see health care quality improved. She has a vision to first understand the situation and challenges facing our system, steady the ship where needed to improve our programs and partnerships, and, most importantly, create a culture here that makes it clear we care deeply about our employees and every single person we serve in whatever capacity.

 

We also look forward to engaging more with our community leaders who want to help. We appreciate the support we have received from our local city and county leaders, and we will be working with them and others to address the challenges we face. We will also have very frank and detailed conversations about what needs to happen so we can have the best health care system for this region of the state.

 

As you may know, few industries have more regulation and oversight than health care. Patient, employee and operational information is required to be confidential by state and federal law. However, as a health care system, we will be as open, transparent and engaged publicly as possible while always following the law.

 

With common goals and a renewed, positive spirit, we can have a health care system in West Alabama that we can all be proud of. As an employee, a physician, a patient, part of our foundation, a community member – we can all play a role in the future of DCH Health System as we change and grow.

 

We are excited and encouraged about the new chapter we are about to write for the DCH Health System. We want you to be a part of our process … and our progress.

 

For more coverage of changes within the DCH System as they unfold, stay connected to the Tuscaloosa Thread.

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