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Union calls for change at the top of Lutheran Health’s parent company

OAKLAND, Cal. (WPTA21) – The nation’s largest union of registered nurses wants a new CEO for Community Health Systems, the parent company of Lutheran Health Network, based in Fort Wayne.

National Nurses United has released a report in which it alleges Wayne T. Smith has mismanaged the health care and hospitals corporation.

“Based on a review of Smith’s tenure as CEO, it appears that his primary goal has been to enrich himself at the expense of patients, and the corporation’s assets,” said National Nurses United President Zenei Cortez. “The CHS board must put an end to Smith’s flagrant mismanagement. Rather than squander money on bloated bonuses the board must direct new leadership to reinvest in the hospitals that CHS has let fall into terrible disrepair.”

The release coincides with the annual CHS stockholders meeting, taking place in Franklin, Tenn., where the company is headquartered.

According to the Associated Press, the CHS board has proposed a resolution to reward Smith with a compensation package quadrupling last year’s bonus pay, despite massive losses to shareholders and untold hardship in the communities exploited by CHS. In the report, nurses express strong opposition to the CHS board resolution to reward Smith’s appalling mismanagement stating that, “approving the proposal would be an astonishing endorsement of a corporate leader working only for himself.”

The report also documents:

Just this year, Lutheran Hospital leaders suspended the heart transplant program citing the departure of the program’s chief physician and the immediate inability to hire a replacement. The move sent patients to hospitals in Indianapolis for care.

In addition, childbirth services at the company’s St. Joseph hospital were also scuttled and rolled into existing operations at DuPont Hospital. 

Earlier this year, Lutheran Health Network’s CEO Mike Poore announced his intention to step down from the role. The announcement comes only two years after his predecessor, Brian Bauer, was fired after a failed takeover bid by a group of Fort Wayne doctors. 

At the same time, company leaders are planning a new, modern hospital adjacent to the existing St. Joseph facility. The hospital, called Lutheran Downtown, will have 60 beds with the ability to grow to 100 in the future.

ABC21 has asked CHS leaders for comment. We will update this story once we hear back.

Jonathan Shelley

Jonathan Shelley is the news director at WPTA TV, which he joined in 2016 following nine years in a similar role in New Orleans and previous news management positions in Oklahoma City and Las Vegas.

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