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February 04, 2014 8:21 am

EDITORIAL: A new chapter opens for Powell Valley Healthcare

Written by Tessa Schweigert

The first weeks of 2014 brought both closure and new beginnings for Powell Valley Healthcare.

During January, PVHC leaders outlined possible improvements to local health-care facilities that consider medical needs of residents into the future. Recent hirings of additional doctors and nurse practitioners are promising signs for the organization, but also show the need for more space for patient care.

In addition, the month brought conversations about creating a Powell Health Network to bring together various health-care providers and organizations.

A local effort to establish a Community Health Center also gained momentum in January with public presentations on the proposed center. Organizers have said the envisioned center would partner with, rather than compete with, Powell Valley Healthcare.

As Powell Valley Healthcare continued to make important strides to address our community’s health needs, January also brought an end to a painful past.

The former CEO, whose name is known far beyond Powell, was sentenced last week to 10 years in a federal prison for embezzling nearly $1 million from Powell Valley Healthcare.

When Paul Cardwell interviewed for the CEO position in 2010, no one could have imagined what havoc he would wreak in his brief time here.

He arrived with glowing reviews from Indiana, a charismatic personality and an extensive background in health care. But he wasn’t the man he claimed to be.

In fact, Paul Cardwell turned out to be a criminal and a liar, then later a fugitive and now a prisoner.

“Con man extraordinaire” is the most fitting characterization of Cardwell, as he was described by PVHC attorney Tracy Copenhaver at the Jan. 24 sentencing in Cheyenne.

In the end, Cardwell’s deception damaged Powell Valley Healthcare far beyond the dollars he embezzled. The hospital was repaid for its direct losses by insurers and a management company, and Cardwell was ordered to pay back nearly $1.7 million in restitution for the money he stole from hospitals in Powell and Indiana.

Finances can be restored, but the detriment goes far beyond money and is long lasting, as Judge Nancy Freudenthal noted.

“And that detriment will be to board members that will be reluctant to agree to serve, staff members that will remain worried about their positions and their roles vis a vis the board, and the leadership by (Bill Patten, Cardwell’s successor as CEO) will in all likelihood continue to be second-guessed by the leadership within the community, which will affect his ability to lead and govern as a CEO,” Freudenthal said.

Patten described those difficulties that began on his very first day at Powell Valley Healthcare — the day Cardwell’s embezzlement scheme was first publicized.

In the months that followed, Patten dealt with the aftermath of Cardwell’s actions. That included internal strife, low morale, stress, anxiety and many hours spent reviewing processes and controls.

We admire Patten for his work to repair and restore trusting relationships, and for taking on the challenge of rebuilding what was broken. He has refocused Powell Valley Healthcare and given it direction.

As morale improves and the organization plans for the future, we want to see it succeed. Powell Valley Healthcare is vital to the health of this community and the wellbeing of its residents.

Yes, Paul Cardwell has inflicted deep scars. But healing has begun, and we believe the organization and our community can recover and be stronger.

2 comments

  • Comment Link February 05, 2014 10:14 am posted by clipstein

    crazy---in 7 months he could do this? without any one knowing what was going on? an old saying you cannot fix stupid

  • Comment Link February 13, 2014 4:35 pm posted by Mike Wilson

    Powell Community and surrounding areas utilizing PVHC's Hospital, Clinic, Express Care, Care Center, Assisted Living, Home Health, Hospice, Specialty Physician's, CBOC(Community Based Outpatient Clinic for the Veterans Administration) deserve better than an Administrative Team(loosely), Hospital Board and Management Company that hired "Con man extraordinaire" TWICE. V.P's are extremely lacking in leadership skills, independent and constructive thinking. These supposed healthcare leaders were suppressing PVHC transparency and staff concerns regarding Cardwell, in fear for their own jobs, when they as leaders could have stopped the debacle had they truly been leaders and confronted Cardwell immediately. Respect for the leaders and entities of PVHC is lost.
    PVHC knows they better team with the new community health center idea or they will be closing their doors as an organization.

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