Secrecy surrounds firing of hospital head and board

Investigates

REDFIELD, S.D. (KELO) — A small South Dakota town’s hospital is in upheaval and the reasons why are being kept secret.

Earlier this month, the Redfield City Council voted to remove the Community Memorial Hospital CEO and all members of the hospital board. The Redfield City Council made the decision during a two-hour meeting behind closed doors in executive session.

The hospital contracts with Avera Health to provide services and the council voted to oust CEO Michael O’Keefe, who remains an Avera employee, according to the health system.

KELOLAND News interviewed O’Keefe in 2018 after a man with a gun entered the hospital, putting it on lockdown.

“It is an ongoing investigation, there was a weapon that was drawn and it was in front of my face,” O’Keefe said on July 12, 2018.

Currently the hospital lists Tom Snyder as its interim CEO. Snyder works for Avera St. Luke’s in Aberdeen. 

KELOLAND Investigates contacted Avera to find out what was going on. Avera told us it was “working collaboratively with the city council as we have a management agreement (we provide services), but it is their hospital so you should contact the city.”

We made several calls to City officials and no one returned them. However, KELOLAND Investigates has been looking further into both the hospital’s meeting minutes and that of the Redfield City Council.

Here’s what we’ve learned:

On July 25th, Community Memorial Hospital Board met and O’Keefe reported that he has met with the City Council, Redfield Mayor Jayme Akin and Avera officials to discuss “general concerns.”

Then on August 13, Mike O’Keefe was fired as the hospital administrator and the hospital board members were replaced with the City Council.

A week later, at the next City Council meeting four staff members from Community Memorial Hospital went before the City Council to voice their opposition to the City Council’s decision.

According to the Redfield Press, Sandy Jungwirth said, “If I were a CEO, I would really think twice about coming here because I would feel like I was being thrown into the lion’s den, and as far as the hospital board, I just feel like there was some really good people on the hospital board, too.”

Heidi Gehrke explained how when she came to work in medical records the hospital was in the dark ages and that Avera had improved things. When it came to the changes, Gehrke said, “I am not even sure what your reasoning is. It seems like that is top secret. …There are things that have happened that us as providers are not aware of, and I don’t think that’s fair. Perhaps you have reasons, but I have not been given any of those reasons.”

The Redfield mayor said they wanted to continue to have the hospital managed by Avera.

The new hospital board made up of Redfield City Counselors met last week and acting CEO Tom Snyder talked about finding a new CEO.

KELOLAND Investigates will let you know when we hear back from Redfield City officials with some answers.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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