The US Navy has evacuated the majority of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, aboard which hundreds of sailors have tested positive for the coronavirus.
In an update Sunday, the Navy revealed that 585 sailors have tested positive, and 3,967 sailors have been moved ashore in Guam, where the carrier is in port. Now, over 80 percent of the ship’s roughly 4,800 crew, staff and squadrons are off the ship, which deployed in January. Some of the crew has to stay aboard to guard the ship and to maintain its two nuclear reactors.
Sailors evacuated from the ship are put in isolation for 14 days in local hotels and other available facilities. At least one USS Theodore Roosevelt sailor who tested positive has been hospitalized.
The first three coronavirus cases aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt were announced on March 24.
On April 2, the day he fired the aircraft carrier’s commanding officer, then-acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said that there were 114 cases on the ship, adding that he expected that number to rise. “I can tell you with great certainty there’s going to be more. It will probably be in the hundreds,” he told reporters at the Pentagon.
His prediction turned out to be accurate.
On March 30, Capt. Brett Crozier, then the USS Theodore Roosevelt’s commanding officer, wrote a letter warning that “the spread of the disease is ongoing and accelerating.” In his plea, he called on the Navy to take decisive action and evacuate the overwhelming majority of the crew.
Crozier was relieved of his command after the letter leaked to the media.
Modly, who flew out to the carrier at a cost of $243,000 to taxpayers, bashed the captain to the crew after firing him. He apologized and then later resigned.
Having personally visited the USS Theodore Roosevelt, he said that “there was lots of anxiety about the virus,” adding that “as you can imagine, the morale covers the spectrum, considering what they have been through.”
The coronavirus has created a lot of unexpected challenges for not just the Navy, but the military overall.
“What we have to do is we have to figure out how to plan for operations in these kind of COVID environments,” Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John Hyten said Thursday. “This’ll be a new way of doing business that we have to focus in on, and we’re adjusting to that new world as we speak today.”
Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly resigned Tuesday after fanning the flames of a controversy over a coronavirus outbreak on board an aircraft carrier.
In a tweet, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said he accepted Modly’s resignation and that undersecretary of the Army James McPherson will take over as acting Navy secretary.
“This morning I accepted Secretary Modly’s resignation. He resigned of his own accord, putting the Navy and the sailors above self so that the USS Theodore Roosevelt, and the Navy as an institution, can move forward,” Esper said in a statement attached to the tweet.
The resignation comes a day after transcripts and audio of an inflammatory speech, in which Modly defended his decision to fire Capt. Brett Crozier as commander of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, leaked to the media.
Modly relieved Crozier of his command of the Roosevelt last week after a letter the captain wrote pleading for help with a coronavirus outbreak on the ship leaked in the media. Modly did not explicitly accuse Crozier of leaking the letter, but noted it appeared first in his hometown paper, the San Francisco Chronicle, and that he sent a copy to too many people to expect it not to leak.
In the speech aboard the Roosevelt, Modly said that if Crozier didn’t think the letter would leak, he was “too naive or too stupid to be a commanding officer of a ship like this.”
Alternatively, Modly said, if Crozier leaked the letter on purpose, that would be a “serious violation” of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
He also called Crozier’s action a “betrayal” and warned sailors that there is “no situation” in which they should go to the media, alleging “the media has an agenda” that “depends on which side of the political aisle they sit.”
Modly at first said Monday afternoon he stands by “every word,” but by Monday night was apologizing.
“Let me be clear: I do not think Captain Brett Crozier is naive or stupid,” Modly said in a statement. “I apologize for any confusion this choice of words may have caused.”
At a White House press briefing, President Trump said he would not have asked Modly to resign.
“I had heard he did because he didn’t want to cause any disturbance for our country. He wouldn’t have had to resign. I would not have asked him. I don’t know him. I didn’t speak to him. But he did that I think just to end that problem. And I think in many ways that was a very unselfish thing to do.”
Trump said he was unsure what would happen to Crozier, leaving it up to Defense Secretary Mark Esper and the Naval chain of command. He called the letter a “mistake,” harping on its eventual leak to the media.
“The whole thing was very unfortunate. The captain should not have written a letter. He didn’t have to be Ernest Hemingway.”
The day before, as uproar over Modly’s speech and Crozier’s firing was growing, Trump had said he “may just get involved” with the situation.
Modly initially had Esper’s support in firing Crozier, but the fallout from his speech became too much to overcome as a growing chorus of lawmakers called for his removal from office, including House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
“When I listened to the speech that acting Secretary Modly gave, it was almost like he was trying to do sort of a half-assed imitation of how Donald Trump would have given a speech,” Smith told reporters Tuesday in a response to a question from The Hill.
After the resignation, Smith said in statement that Modly “submitting his formal resignation to Secretary Esper was the right thing to do.”
Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services, also said he agreed with Esper’s desicion to accept Modly’s resignation because Modly “mishandled the situation.”
“These actions were inappropriate for the leader of the U.S. Navy at any time, particularly in a crisis, and did a disservice to Captain Crozier, the sailors of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, and all Navy personnel,” Reed said in a statement. “The new leadership of the Navy must do better in leading and protecting sailors, Marines and their families in this unprecedented crisis.”
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) said he supports Esper’s personnel decisions “especially as we deal with this pandemics,” but that “it’s disturbing to me that there’s been so much turmoil at the top of the Department of the Navy over the last year.”
In his statement on Tuesday, Esper said Modly’s “care for the sailors was genuine” and that he “wish[es] him all the best.”
Esper said he briefed Trump after his conversation with Modly and that the president supported his appointment of McPherson to replace Modly.
Esper said he also met with McPherson, Chief of Naval Operation Adm. Michael Gilday, Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley. He gave Gilday and McPherson guidance “on the way ahead.”
Esper also said he emphasized that his first priority in the coronavirus crisis is “protect our people, which means putting the health, safety and welfare of the USS Theodore Roosevelt’s crew first.”
“We must now put the needs of the Navy, including the crew of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, first, and we must all move forward together,” he said.
Crozier’s letter warned sailors could die if all but 10 percent of the 4,800-percent crew wasn’t evacuated from the ship.
“We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die,” Crozier wrote. “If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our sailors.”
After he was fired, his crew gave him a hero’s sendoff, clapping and chanting his name as he walked off the ship.
As of Tuesday, the Navy reported 230 cases of coronavirus on the Roosevelt after 79 percent of the crew has been tested. The Navy said 1,999 sailors have been taken off the ship as it is docked in Guam, with 1,232 staying at hotels.
Over the weekend, Modly told The Washington Post he stepped in to fire Crozier in part because he wanted to get out in front of any action by the president. Modly’s predecessor, Richard Spencer, was ousted amid a dispute with Trump.
Spencer was fired amid the fallout from Trump’s decision to restore the rank of Navy Chief Petty Officer Eddie Gallagher, who was convicted in the military justice system of posing with the corpse of an ISIS fighter but acquitted of murder.
In addition to restoring Gallagher’s rank, Trump ordered the Navy to allow Gallagher to keep his status as a SEAL after news broke the Navy was reviewing his Trident pin.
Last month, Trump nominated U.S. Ambassador to Norway Kenneth Braithwaite to be Navy secretary after first saying he would immediately after Spencer’s departure in November.
But it’s unclear when the Senate will be able to hold a confirmation hearing for Braithwaite and approve his nomination as lawmakers remain largely out of Washington during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Once the Senate is back in session, I will make sure the Armed Services Committee considers the nomination of the next secretary of the Navy quickly, and I ask my fellow committee members to help me expedite this nomination as well,” Inhofe said in his statement. “Our Sailors, Marines and their families deserve to have stable, capable leadership at the helm during these challenging times.”
Succession planning is a frequent topic of conversation among the boards and executive teams we work with at health systems, and for good reason. There’s a large cohort of CEOs and other C-suite members in their late 50s to mid-60s who are probably two or three years away from retirement. Smart organizations are way ahead of these transitions, creating a deliberate bench of next-generation leaders, and explicitly evaluating their performance at a board level to determine who will fill key leadership spots in the future.
One aspect of succession planning that’s gotten less attention but can prove equally disruptive to the organization if ignored, is what role the CEO will play after retirement. We’ve worked with a number of systems over the years whose CEOs have been in seat for a decade or more, and who are reluctant to take a full step away from the post once their time is over. Of course, it’s ideal to have a transition period that lasts for a defined time, to give the new executive time to get up to speed and build confidence.
But what we sometimes see is former CEOs whose shadows loom large over the system, as they continue to provide (often unsolicited or unwanted) advice, stay in close touch with former subordinates, or keep a running dialogue with board members. This creates an awkward situation for the new CEO, who finds her own plans and ideas constantly tested, sometimes explicitly, against the “What does [former CEO] think of that?” standard.
The key to avoiding this problem is to address it well in advance. We’ve been part of explicit conversations between incoming and outgoing CEOs about expectations and role definition post-exit, and even seen a few outgoing CEOs engage career counselors to help them manage the personal challenge of letting go of the organizations they’ve poured their hearts and souls into. A delicate situation to be sure—but a critical one to get right.
Rich Goode, vice president and CFO of Dallas-based Children’s Health, resigned Sept. 24, about a month after another finance leader left the organization, according to The Dallas Morning News.
Hospital officials did not give a reason for his departure. The organization has not responded to Becker’s request for comment.
Mr. Goode’s resignation comes after the August departure of Ryan Bailey, head of investments at Children’s Health, who left to form an investment firm.
Mr. Goode served as CFO for three years, joining Children’s Health in 2016. He was previously vice president of finance and CFO at Cook Children’s Health Care System in Fort Worth, Texas.
Mr. Goode is credited with doubling the system’s net operating income and implementing analysis tools to offer better insights into its financial health during his tenure.
The challenges many community hospitals face have become so unrelenting as to threaten long-term financial viability. It’s important that this threat be met with prompt action and operational changes that can improve the immediate situation as well as sustainability. A formal turnaround plan includes analyses and actions, and becomes a roadmap to redirect hospitals and help them stay on track to serve as community resources for years to come.
JK: Leaders from ailing community hospitals sometimes don’t recognize the severity of their problems or that certain indicators call for quick, corrective action. Some common alarm signals that leaders may tune out at first include a downward trend of days cash on hand, shifts in patient volume across the delivery spectrum, medical staff dissatisfaction or defection, and even bond covenant concerns. Recognizing that problems need to be addressed and changes must be made is the first step toward improvement.
JK: Typically, the process starts with an operational assessment to evaluate strategy, operations, supply chain, revenue cycle and leadership with the aim of reducing costs and increasing revenue—the tried-and-true formula for financial solvency. The analysis includes a review of data and documents, as well as interviews with board, executive and physician leaders. The process reveals any organizational problems or vulnerabilities that aren’t immediately apparent, and it forms the basis for a turnaround plan, including a detailed action plan. An open mind and fresh perspective are important to be able to see options to go beyond operations as they have always been.
JK: Almost every hospital has room to improve staff productivity. Labor is a hospital’s greatest expense, so optimizing productivity by having the right number and mix of staff can make a big impact. Community hospitals that do not have a productivity tool to achieve and maintain the right staffing levels can typically find savings of 15 to 20 percent in salaries and benefits by implementing a tool. In those hospitals where there’s already some productivity monitoring, implementing a more effective tool or improving processes can result in 5 to 10 percent savings. After labor, supply costs are the second highest expense for a hospital, so that’s another key focus area for cost reduction and savings. Industry benchmarks show that many community hospitals have an opportunity to reduce supply costs by as much as 20 percent.
Assessing revenue cycle is also imperative to help identify, monitor and collect every dollar a hospital is due. Gains can be made in this area by renegotiating health plan contracts, streamlining billing for faster payment, auditing medical record coding and reviewing the chargemaster.
JK: Hospitals can potentially identify significant cost-saving opportunities by comparing themselves to hospitals of similar size and volume. Comparing clinical, operational and financial data also identifies areas for improvement and where to allocate time and money for improvement initiatives. For example, a CHC-managed hospital that recently underwent a successful turnaround had discovered through benchmarking that its staff ratios were higher and its benefits were more expensive compared to similar hospitals. This information prompted leaders to take a closer look at the hospital’s situation, and they found it made sense from a sustainability perspective to downsize staff and bring benefit packages to competitive levels. These actions slashed the hospital’s annual expenses by $5.3 million.
JK: It’s a collaborative process requiring the participation of the board of trustees, executive leaders, physician leaders, and in many cases an outside management firm to evaluate the situation and develop a specific plan of action. As we discussed, leaders of struggling hospitals usually see the need for improvement but don’t recognize the severity of their situation. Because of that blind spot, it’s often external stakeholders or bondholders who set corrective action in motion by seeking outside assistance.
The top executive of Erlanger Health System, based in Chattanooga, Tennessee, has left the organization after months of smoldering conflict with some of the nonprofit’s physicians.
President and CEO Kevin Spiegel’s departure was immediate, according to a statement released Wednesday by board chairman Mike Griffin, who offered his well-wishes to the departing leader.
Spiegel, who had been on the job more than six years, reportedly said his separation from the organization was a mutual decision.
“We’re still working out the details, and hopefully that’ll be complete by the board meeting in two weeks,” Spiegel told the Times Free Press‘ Elizabeth Fite. “This is a great hospital, and it’s a great organization, and it’s only going to do better and better things.”
Erlanger’s board is expected to pick Spiegel’s successor in two weeks, at its regularly scheduled board meeting, according to Griffin’s statement.
Spiegel’s exit comes less than two weeks after the board held a special public meeting to talk about physicians’ concerns and criticism of Erlanger’s senior leadership team.
Spiegel is the third high-ranking Erlanger executive to leave since Fite reported in June on a letter from the Medical Executive Committee explaining its reasons for a unanimous vote of “no confidence” in the current executive leadership team. The other two were Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Rob Brooks and Vice President of Patient Safety and Quality Pam Gordon.
Spiegel has been credited with leading Erlanger out of choppy financial waters, but he has also been caught up in a number of controversies, as the Times Free Press reported.