Health chief coming soon

Four short-listed candidates for chief executive officer of the Health Services Authority will be on-island before the end of the month for final interviews.

Pastor Al Ebanks, chairman of the board of the HSA, expects a decision on who will get the job soon after the visit.

‘All things being equal, I believe it will be fair to say that the board will more than likely be making a decision on the CEO and making an offer to one of those candidates by the end of this month,’ he said.

He expressed hope that a new CEO would be in place within 30 to 60 days.

‘Some of the candidates are available on fairly short notice. We have a couple that within 30 days it is possible. We would look at somewhere between 30 and a maximum of 60 days before we would have him in place,’ he said

During their visit, the candidates will be making a presentation to the board of directors, he explained.

‘They will have the opportunity to visit the facilities and have some interaction with our staff.

‘They’ll be here in Cayman where they can see and talk and feel and get a sense of the place,’ he said.

Of the four male candidates, two are American and two are Canadian. Originally, about 40 people applied for the job, Mr. Ebanks said. Only one applicant was a woman.

‘These four candidates all meet our qualifications and requirements and have fairly extensive experience as administrators and CEOs of hospitals,’ he said.

He stressed the importance of the decision.

‘We need stability in the organisation and it has to start at the top.

‘I think the struggles of the organisation over the last several years are because we’ve not had the continuity of leadership,’ Mr. Ebanks said.

He is also looking to make decisions on a chief financial officer and human resources director as soon as possible. That decision-making process will begin when the new CEO is hired, he said.

‘The board has made the decision that we believe it is critical for the CEO to have a role to play in the selection of those top positions.

‘Our board is not interested in running the day-to-day affairs of the hospital. We’re interested in seeing that it is run right.

‘We believe that putting a new CEO in place, it’s going to be important that he has the people around him that he’s comfortable with,’ he said.

Mr. Ebanks said he wants all three positions could be filled within the next 60 to 90 days.

Almost six months into his tenure as chairman of the board, he sees progress being made on several key issues affecting the HSA.

Along with hiring senior staff, Mr. Ebanks has been turning his attention to getting the finances of the hospital in order.

The issues include a large debt and a lack of financial records.

‘Finances are obviously a major challenge for the HSA. We discovered there was almost $7 million in outstanding debt to our creditors and obviously that is not healthy,’ he said, adding that they are still grappling with determining what the true operational costs of the hospital are.

‘It was actually surprising to find that between 1992 and 2002, the auditor general estimated the hospital had lost between $70 and $100 million.

Improvements have already been made, he said.

‘We are producing monthly statements at this point in time. I’m pleased to report our highest collections ever from our self-pay clients. It was averaging when we started (on 1 August) about $600,000. We’ve steadily been able to increase that and in December we collected over $1.1 million, so our collections have improved,’ Mr. Ebanks said.

But there is still more to do.

‘I don’t want to give the impression that our problems are solved. And our problems will not be solved in this financial year.

‘But we are beginning to lay what we believe is an important foundation to be able to account to the government and the country how their money is being spent.

With the three senior positions in place, the situation will improve, he said.

‘We haven’t had a CFO since we’ve been here. Until we get those kinds of senior positions in place, we will continue to have more struggles than would be customary for an organisation that has those key people in place,’ Mr. Ebanks said.

Despite the difficulties, he praised the fortitude of the hospital staff.

‘Obviously the public has been well aware of some of the challenges we face. However, I’ve been very encouraged by the dedication and commitment, the professionalism of so many of the staff,’ he said.

When he first became chairman he was uncertain of what he would find.

‘Instead of finding a meltdown, what we have is a lot of bridges that have been broken down. When I use the term bridges it is only from the perspective that there has been a breakdown in communication.

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