The Long Way Home 2.2.24

North Shore Health (NSH), after a closed session meeting with its legal counsel, submitted its first brief to the court of public opinion late on January 25. Titled appropriately enough, “Findings of Facts and Conclusions,” a legal term of art, it was presented as a press release of almost 3,000 words. 

It was, in sum, tedious and condescending to former employees and members of the public who have complained over the last few months in social media and news outlets about management failings and an opaque response from elected directors.

Complaints about the management and work environment at North Shore Health aren’t exactly news. Many of us in Cook County know, at least in passing, several employees and former employees who have shared stories of management failures there. 

In 2022, local radio station WTIP presented an in-depth article about the complaints they’d uncovered. There isn’t much evidence that the article led to meaningful changes, so one assumes those issues have simmered at NSH.

When Dr. Bruce Dahlman, a longtime and well-thought-of local doctor who worked for decades at NSH Emergency Room, was summarily terminated last fall, the simmering boiled over. During those years, Dr. Dahlman was retained by an out-of-town staffing agency that provides medical professionals to NSH. 

At its November 2023 Board meeting, the NSH board room was filled with residents, and many took up an expanded public comment section to express dismay and anger over the termination. 

Following that meeting, a group of concerned citizens created an online petition asking the NSH Board to reinstate Dr. Dahlman and consider replacing CEO Kimber Wralstad. In less than a week, the petition had more than 700 signers. When NSH made it clear they were contemplating legal action for defamation against members of the public, the petition was withdrawn.

Too many in leadership positions who face difficult situations raise the sandbags, use the gaslight, and generally hunker down. That was the choice made by NSH. 

Now, the brief they’ve filed in our court of public opinion addresses “three issues.” Dr. Dahlman’s termination, ambulance services, and the laboratory operations. 

Almost half of NSH's words focused on Dr. Dahlman in the “Findings of Fact and Conclusions.” 

 I want to be fair to NSH because, in the conclusion of the brief, they write, “Additionally, the personal attacks from these physicians (local docs from SMC) and others on the members of the Board and Administration have been grossly unfair.”  But it’s hard not to say, “Grow up” to the NSH Board and management. Life ain’t fair.

The WTIP report in 2022 revealed that NSH was in a deep hole where its employees were concerned. The hole deepened when Dr. Dahlman was forced out. There is a well-known rule of holes, stated well by the late columnist Molly Ivins, “When you’re in a hole, stop digging.”

Everything the NSH leadership has done since Dr. Dahlman’s termination digs the hole deeper. The current 3,000-word brief does more harm than it may have intended.

Covering up a hole, fighting back if you will, with billable hours and spilled ink, will not make the anger disappear. 

The people who prepared a petition following the November board meeting have coalesced into a group called Cook County Citizens Concerned with Health Care (CCCHC), and they will remember and keep going.

And former workers, fairly disgruntled or not, will remember too.