The Health Services Authority has finally confirmed Lizzette Yearwood as CEO of the Health Services Authority after a test run of more than two years.
Ms Yearwood reluctantly took over as acting CEO of the authority in October 2006, shortly after the controversial sacking of then-CEO Craig Brown.
Announcing the appointment at a Wednesday morning press conference, HSA Board Chairman Pastor Al Ebanks highlighted a string of achievements the authority has made under Ms Yearwood’s guidance.
He described the period Ms Yearwood has been in charge as the most stable the HSA has seen.
‘She has been a unifying force, a positive role model and a calm, knowledgeable professional in providing the board with sound advice in its decision making as well as at the senior management level and in her interactions with staff and patients,’ he said.
‘During her tenure there has been a welcomed rebirth and fundamental transformation in the trust, confidence and working relationship between the Board and the executive leadership of the HSA, as well as with our business partners and the public.’
He contrasted the situation with almost daily newspaper headlines in 2005 and 2006 about the untenable state of affairs of the HSA which had caused a loss of public trust and confidence in the hospital; low staff morale; exodus of employees and lack of stable leadership was the unfortunate norm.’
Yearwood has presided over a multi-million dollar turn-around in the HSA’s operating deficit. Operating losses for the authority have dropped from $14.2 million for the 2006/07 financial year to an expected loss of $6.4 million in the current budget year. Health officials concede that figure could increase again as global financial turmoil takes its toll in Cayman, but Mr. Ebanks said he is confident the authority has the right measures in place to help stop the bleeding.
Among the measures he identified were increased efficiency, adjusted fees to better reflect the cost of providing services; implementation of a new charge master system so the authority can bill properly for all the services it provides; and the engagement of a debt collection agency to collect delinquent accounts.
The 13-year hospital veteran admitted she was apprehensive about taking on the role initially but believed someone from within the organisation was needed to bring stability.
Describing herself as a young Caymanian who remains passionate about service to country, she said it is ‘only by the grace of God and some very resilient and devoted staff, who were empowered to do what they do best, that we have regained the trust and support of the community and are ready to do great things.’
Ms Yearwood’s protracted road to being confirmed in the top job was first delayed in 2007 when Minister of Health Anthony Eden asked the board to wait until the completion of a consultant’s review of the HSA by former Health Minister and North Side MLA Ezzard Miller.
Mr. Miller’s review recommended that any new CEO have a master’s degree in hospital administration – a qualification that Ms Yearwood was studying for but had not yet completed.
Mr. Eden – who has publicly outlined a desire to see Ms Yearwood in the top job – agreed it presented a problem and he questioned whether a temporary CEO could be brought in until Ms Yearwood completed her studies.
Members of the HSA’s board had been on the cusp of advertising the position when its term expired in June 2008, although there was strong support for Ms Yearwood being awarded the top job.
Ms Yearwood and Mr. Ebanks have been in discussions over her becoming the confirmed CEO for over a year, but it was not until January that the new board ultimately sanctioned the move with a unanimous vote.
Ms Yearwood said Wednesday she is scheduled to complete her studies in the next few months.