Jones Leaves MCMH, Named Machias Interim



ELLSWORTH — In an abrupt and dramatic series of developments, Douglas T. Jones, president and chief operating officer of Maine Coast Memorial Hospital since 1999, announced his retirement Tuesday — effective immediately — and took a temporary assignment from Eastern Maine Health Systems to oversee the imperiled Down East Community Hospital in Machias.

Douglas T. Jones
Douglas T. Jones
ELLSWORTH — In an abrupt and dramatic series of developments, Douglas T. Jones, president and chief operating officer of Maine Coast Memorial Hospital since 1999, announced his retirement Tuesday — effective immediately — and took a temporary assignment from Eastern Maine Health Systems to oversee the imperiled Down East Community Hospital in Machias.

Pending court approval, Jones will serve as interim CEO in Machias for a minimum of 60 days. He said Tuesday that the Down East Community Hospital post was not likely to be permanent.

His long-term plan is to continue working in health care administration, but he said he won’t hurry into his next full-time position. He said he has undertaken a nationwide search for his next job.

“I’ve been interviewing for positions,” he said. “I won’t take the first one that’s offered unless it’s unusually good.”

His task in Machias will be unusually challenging.

The hospital stands to lose its Medicare and Medicaid eligibility due to quality of care deficits. The state Department of Health and Human Services wants to take over its operation in order to address the shortcomings that prompted the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to yank — effective July 10 — the hospital’s eligibility for reimbursement.

“Termination of DECH’s [Down East Community Hospital’s] participation in the Medicare program would cause DECH, immediately or in the very near future, to be unable to continue to provide health care services for the benefit of the Machias and greater Washington County communities,” DECH Board Chairman Walter Plaut said in an affidavit filed with Kennebec County Superior Court Monday.The affidavit is part of a petition for appointment of emergency receiver submitted to the court by Maine Attorney General Janet Mills on behalf of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Court documents cite DECH’s failure to meet federal requirements for Medicare and Medicaid participation. The petition includes a 91-page plan of correction addressing deficiencies in the areas of emergency services, organizational structure, governing body and quality assurance.

Immediately after the federal agency announced its intention to drop the hospital as an eligible provider, Down East Community Hospital CEO Wayne Dodwell was placed on administrative leave.

An interim CEO, Craig Jesiolowski, was named Monday by Quorum Health Services LLC, the national company that provides management services to Down East Community Hospital. His stay might be a brief one.

“Petitioner has contacted Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems (EMHS),” the DHHS petition states. “EMHS has agreed to serve as emergency receiver in this matter for a monthly fee of $21,867. EMHS proposes to appoint Doug Jones as interim chief executive officer.”

John Martins, director of communications for the DHHS, said Wednesday morning that he hoped the court would decide on the petition later that day.

In an interview at his MCMH office Tuesday, Jones looked back on his 10 years at Maine Coast Memorial Hospital with fondness and pride.

“When I came here the hospital was besieged, and not just financially,” he said. “The hospital wasn’t proud of itself.

“But the reason I took the job was the staff and physicians.”

He said he had interviewed at 22 other hospitals before settling on Maine Coast.

“Compared to the others, I saw here the recipe for success,” he said.

Jones said he was particularly grateful for the support he received from physicians and staff. That support continued right into his interview as e-mails from hospital employees and doctors who had just heard the news blinked onto his computer screen.

“I can’t keep up with the messages that are coming in,” he said. “The staff has never let me down.”

Karen Stanley, chairman of the hospital’s Board of Trustees, said Tuesday that “within the next week we’re on track to put in place an interim” CEO at Maine Coast Memorial.

Until that interim takes the reins, she said, “key management” administrators will be in charge.

Stanley and administrators at Maine Coast Memorial Hospital said Tuesday the hospital is preparing to provide medical services to patients in the Machias if federal sanctions against DECH are enacted.

“While contingency planning is under way, we hope and pray we will not have to activate these contingency plans,” said Kevin Sedgwick, chief financial officer at Maine Coast Memorial. “We are really hoping we don’t have to accommodate any additional volume. The Machias hospital has to be there for that community. Any increased activity we might see we expect to be temporary.”

Lois Macias, Maine Coast Memorial’s vice president of clinical and staff services, said the hospital is planning to increase immediate capacity for inpatient and emergency services.

“Our first and foremost concern is to make sure patients are cared for and to assist Machias to rectify its situation,” Macias said.

For more health news, pick up a copy of The Ellsworth American.

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