Cardwell told the Powell Valley Healthcare board on Monday night that, following a lengthy absence to resolve family issues, he was told his presence was no longer desired as CEO of Powell Valley Healthcare.
“A tremendous amount of pressure was placed on me, personally and professionally, the last few weeks being out with family issues and coming back in the last couple of weeks. As you can imagine, it can be overwhelming. Circumstances occurred that led me to believe that I was no longer needed or wanted here.”
Cardwell said he submitted his resignation Friday, then learned quickly thereafter that the things he heard “were deceitful in nature.”
“I want to be back,” he told board members.
But Cardwell’s resignation already had been accepted by HealthTech Management Services Inc., which employed Cardwell through its contract to provide management services for Powell Valley Healthcare.
As PVHC attorney Scott Kolpitcke noted, all Powell Valley Healthcare board members can do is advise HealthTech about their wishes; the final say is HealthTech’s.
Several doctors attended the meeting in support of Cardwell, with Dr. Lynn Horton and Dr. Jeff Hansen speaking on his behalf.
Hansen said Cardwell had moved the organization forward and significantly improved morale at the hospital.
“I can’t imagine us successfully going forward without his leadership,” Hansen said. “I strongly believe we need him at the helm of this facility. I strongly support him (as do) physicians in general.”
Added Horton: “I think that Paul has, in the time he’s been here, about six months, has done a really good job with regard to showing strong leadership skills to take us to the next phase of development. He’s very much onboard with his understanding of recruiting.
“I would really like to hear what happened to cause him to resign, and what prompted him to come back to work,” Horton said. “I certainly believe him when he says he wants to be back. I agree, it must have been extenuating circumstances.”
Dr. Mike Bohlman said he and other physicians also support Cardwell, but added, “A group of doctors talked today, and we said we would support whatever decision was made at the board. We have a good group of guys and gals, and we get along well. We’re not going to pick and choose sides.”
Hansen said he didn’t include himself in that agreement.
“I think Mr. Cardwell was given information that was fictitious, and his resignation made under pretenses that I’m quite sickened by,” Hansen said. “I’m going to follow my own heart in this situation, and it’s completely and totally in favor of Mr. Cardwell.”
Neil Todhunter, regional vice president for HealthTech, said he would take the doctors’ desires back to company leaders.
But, he added, “When a professional leader of an organization — when you make a decision to resign, we expect that sufficient thought and foresight has gone into that decision. Thus, we accepted it. Perhaps in a closed session, we may learn more at that point in time.”
A similar situation occurred last fall when, after being hired for the position, Cardwell later said he wouldn’t be taking the job after all. Then, in January, he asked to be considered for the position again. He explained that problems with his baby daughter’s adoption in Thailand had prompted his change of heart, but they had since been resolved. The Powell Valley Healthcare board and HealthTech then agreed he still was the best candidate for the job, and hired him again.
The next half hour or so of Monday’s meeting was spent deciding on whether to go into executive session and how an executive session would be organized and managed.
Once the board determined it would meet behind closed doors, Kolpitcke asked for time to outline what was, and was not, appropriate for discussion in an executive session.
Ultimately, board members decided first to meet with Kolpitcke, then meet separately with Cardwell and with Todhunter and another representative of HealthTech.
Doctors who waited for a chance to address the board during executive session left later without having the opportunity to do so.
After meeting in executive session for three and a half hours, the board’s public meeting resumed. Dr. Mark Wurzel, chairman of the Powell Valley Healthcare Board, said, “The board has agreed on a statement that Paul resigned, and HealthTech accepted his resignation. We hope to receive more clarity. In the meantime, Neil (Todhunter) is the interim CEO.”
Todhunter will serve as interim chief executive officer for Powell Valley Healthcare for about a week and a half. Another interim CEO from outside the company will take over the week of Oct. 10 and will remain until a permanent replacement is hired and onboard, Todhunter said Tuesday.
Todhunter reiterated that Cardwell had submitted his resignation and HealthTech had accepted it. Rescinding that resignation was no longer on the table, he said.
“Any reconsideration was evaluated last evening, and the resignation was, and continues to be, in effect by HealthTech,” he said. “I would tell you that Paul is a friend of mine, and I hate to see him leave as well, but he made that choice.”
The resulting situation “is difficult for everybody,” he said.
Cardwell could not be reached for comment by press time Wednesday.
Todhunter said a new chief executive officer will use existing strategic planning documents for the organization and its facilities as a guide to continue moving Powell Valley Healthcare forward.
“It’s important to have good, strong leaders, but the organization is made up of good, strong people, and success can be achieved,” he said.