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Hospital's Pate on administrative leave

By Kayla Carter
Staff Writer
[email protected]
Unicoi County Memorial Hospital Chief Executive Officer Jim Pate has been put on a paid 30-day administrative leave of absence.
“I don’t know when it was decided,” said Pate, during a phone interview on Monday. “It was made known to me on the 22nd of June.”
Pate declined to discuss any reasons behind the leave of absence. “I’m not going to comment on anything at this point in time,” he said.
Board member Sue Jean Wilson said that the board’s executive committee has the authority to handle situations involving personnel, and that “Due to Mr. Pate’s recent health problems, the executive committee got together and made the decision that this was the best thing to do at this particular time,” she said.
“They made phone calls to the rest of the board to get our OK or not.”
UCMH Board of Control Chairperson Todd Love said the board is still taking the situation into consideration.
“I’d rather not say a whole lot right now,” he said. “We are still working with him and some other things that are going on.
“Right now, he is just on a 30-day leave. There have not been any other discussions.” Love said he would be able to provide the public with more details in the future.
“Obviously, I know the public wants to know and we will let them know as soon as we can,” Love said. He declined to comment further.
Susan Broyles, UCMH director of human resources and safety, said “The board made a decision to put him on a 30-day administrative leave.
“That’s all we know, she said. “We were not notified in advance.”
Chief Financial Officer Toni Buchanan was given the additional duties of CEO during Pate’s leave. “I’m the interim CEO,” she said.
Broyles noted that officials from Spectrum Health Partners of Franklin, Tenn., would be visiting the facility on Tuesday and will remain for about two weeks to study the hospital’s operations. The visit is part of an agreement the hospital and the town of Erwin entered into for an $800,000 loan that was to be used for the hospital’s expenses.
“It’s no secret that we have consultants coming in to evaluate our situation,” Broyles said. “The group [SHP] is well-versed in medical facilities. They have come into other facilities to help them as well. They have a lot of resources to use to help us.”
Buchanan noted that at the same time the Spectrum team is in town, UCMH will be undergoing its routine annual financial audit.
“While this is going on, we will also be having our financial audit,” said Buchanan. “This is something that happens annually. So, we’re having both. Having the auditors is a good thing.”
Broyles said she also sees the benefits in the Spectrum study.
“It’s going to give us a different perspective,” she said. “We’re all kind of looking forward to that. We’ve pretty much exhausted all of our own efforts.”
Buchanan said she expects the consultants will help with the hospital’s efficiency overall.
“It will hopefully get things running more smoothly,” she said. “It will be a fresh set of eyes coming in to look over the whole operation of the hospital. They will give us guidance on anything that may need to be improved.”