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Public Speaks at Sunshine Clinic Board Meeting

By | August 1, 2013

On Tuesday night, the Sunshine Community Health Center Board of Directors met.  In addition to regular Clinic business, the Board allowed an extended period for community members who wished to speak to the recent dismissal of Medical Director Dr. Mary Loeb. Ultimately, no direct action was taken on the subject of Dr. Loeb or Executive Director David Bryant.

Before the meeting began, a rally was held on the bike path in front of the Sunshine Clinic.   Organizers say that over seventy people were present at the beginning of the rally, which was timed to coincide with shift change at the Clinic.  Rally organizer Mary Gunderson says that the mission of the rally was a positive one.

“My primary goal is that–it’s been brought to my attention that the staff is under a lot of stress.  It’s been a really rough month for them.  They just needed to know that they are appreciated, and there are people out here that are rooting for them, and try to bring something positive to a rather stressful–more than rather stressful–situation, and let them know that they’re not isolated.”

In addition to supporting current Clinic staff, many people present at the rally held signs calling for Dr. Loeb’s reinstatement as Medical Director.

Many of the rally participants also attended the Board meeting, which was held at the Assembly of God Church. In a departure from Sundays at most churches, the message came from community members seated in the pews.  Mary Gunderson spoke first, and criticized the decision of Clinic Executive Director David Bryant to dismiss Dr. Loeb.

“Some of us don’t have the luxury of waiting a couple of months while the Clinic regains its footings.  Shouldn’t the patients always be at the center of Clinic decisions?  To me, the decision to remove Dr. Mary did not involve consideration of patients at all.  I suggest that Mr. Bryant’s actions are at odds with what the Clinic staff and community have always promoted, serving the underserved.”

Gunderson called for Executive Director Bryant to be placed on a Leave of Absence while his decisions are investigated.  This sentiment was echoed by others, including former Clinic staff.  Duronda Twigg, a registered nurse, says that, because of Bryant’s actions, “The Clinic environment has become one of fear, distrust, and lack of leadership.”  Sharon Meals, former Executive Assistant to Mr. Bryant, accuses him of being deceptive in his removal Dr. Loeb.

“I have observed the E.D. spending an unusual amount of time working behind the scenes, enlisting a few staff members to join him in his pursuit of an agenda that did not have the wellbeing of the Clinic in mind, or consider the negative impact that such decisions would have on staff and, more importantly, on patients and the community.  I think you should consider the possibility that the Executive Director has deliberately selected, distorted, and framed the information you have received about Dr. Mary in order to gain your support in dismissing her.”

In total, over twenty community members spoke at the meeting, all of them critical of the removal of Dr. Mary Loeb.  The majority called for some combination of Dr. Loeb’s reinstatement or Mr. Bryant’s discipline or dismissal.

In response to the pointed criticism he received, Bryant says in a phone interview that hearing out this sort of community concern is part of his function.

“It’s pretty much the Executive Director’s job to take their lumps when something like this happens, and to not let their personal opinions interfere with trying to move the Clinic forward.  I can’t let those things be a distraction, even if I may disagree with them.”

In response to the allegation that he came into the Executive Director position with an agenda to remove Dr. Loeb, Bryant says that his primary driver is the Clinic’s wellbeing.

“The agenda that I accepted when I accepted the job was the agenda set by the Board, which is to do everything I can to make sure that the Clinic continues to exist in a healthy financial state, and that–most importantly–it continues to provide for the healthcare of the people in the catchment area.  That’s paramount.  There was no agenda.  I had no knowledge of the people here prior to signing on to the job.”

Bryant also discussed the plans for ensuring that services continue at the Sunshine and Willow Clinics.  He said at the meeting that the Clinic is still waiting for the new approval to dispense controlled substances, but that they can still be prescribed, and other prescription drugs can be obtained on-site.   He also says that the state-funded vaccination program will proceed, and that steps have been made to ensure the opiate addiction treatment program will not be interrupted.

The Sunshine Community Health Center Board entered executive session for just under two hours, then tabled the majority of the agenda.  No action was taken regarding Dr. Loeb or Mr. Bryant.

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