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Corlin will join leadership at Newhall Memorial as newest member of board

Posted: March 13, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: March 13, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Think of Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital as a sick patient complaining of something wrong.

That’s how a nationally recognized doctor is framing his diagnosis of hospital discord.

He brings to the bedside a question as simple as the task of taking a patient’s temperature.

Is Newhall Memorial normal and typical?

Dr. Richard Corlin, newest member to join the hospital’s board of directors, who served as president of both the American Medical Association and the California Medical Association, said his work begins in the Santa Clarita Valley with a couple of fundamental questions.

“Is the hospital’s set of circumstances, rules, bylaws, regulations fairly similar and typical for a community hospital? Or do they differ? And if they differ, why? I think that’s the first place to begin,” Corlin said in an interview last week.

“It’s not that everybody has to be average and typical, but if they’re not, and if they deviate from what is average and typical, then the  first question is: ‘OK, this is not typical. Is there a good reason for it?’

“And, that will often lead you in the direction of: ‘Well maybe this is the core of the problem.’”

Long medical career
Corlin was born in 1940, and in some ways, his life was not what most would call normal or typical.

He began assisting in autopsies at the age of 14.

“I grew up in Newark, N.J., which — even then — it was a pretty gritty town,” Corlin said. “I worked as an orderly in the recovery room, wheeling people back to their rooms after surgery.”

The recovery room was next to the pathology laboratory, he recalled.

“The pathologist came in one day and saw this young kid standing in the recovery room and asked what I was doing. I told him.

“And he said, ‘Why are you working here?’

“‘Because I want to be a doctor,’’’ Corlin replied.

“And he said, ‘OK, when I do autopsies, why don’t you help me?’ So at the age of 14, I was helping the pathologist do autopsies.

“It was a different world.”

The young orderly — who became a doctor who would one day help shape national and state policies affecting tens of thousands of fellow physicians across the country, and thereby millions of patients — is now entering the world of politics inside Newhall Memorial.

“From what I know about the hospital, it is a good hospital and it’s got enormous potential to become a better hospital,” he said. “I have a lot of confidence in the management of the hospital. They’ve got a good patient population there.

“It has to be run as a cooperative effort between the administration, the board and the medical staff for the benefit of the community, not just the specific patients but for the benefit of the community.

“Usually, the right answer is one that has some degree of moderation to it. It’s a rare circumstance where you find differing points of view, where anybody can justify taking a rigid and unyielding position.

“We have to recognize the difference between compromise and appeasement. You never appease anything because that’s always wrong because (with) an appeasement you give up some principles that are valid. But you always have to be ready to make some compromises, to come (away from negotiations) with what’s best for the people we’re serving.”

Doctor concerns
Corlin is no stranger to controversy.

When he gave his inaugural speech to the American Medical Association, his words inflamed the National Rifle Association so much the gun lobby group put Corlin’s face on its newsletter.

What was the controversy? Corlin’s speech discussed the toll on society of widespread gun availability.

He did this by reflecting on his early years working in New Jersey hospitals.

“In five summers at hospitals in New Jersey — working in the recovery room and the morgue and the emergency room and driving ambulance(s) — I never saw a gunshot wound,” he said. “Imagine the person having that job today.”

So landing in the middle of long-simmering animosity between disgruntled Newhall Memorial physicians and the hospital’s policymakers and administrators has prompted Corlin to do his homework.

“One of the first things I’m going to do ... is review the last 12 months’ minutes of this board, so that (I) get the historical perspective of what’s been occurring.”

What Corlin is expected to find in the minutes are concerns voiced by 11 Medical Executive Committee physicians through the group’s spokesman, Dr. Gene Dorio, who refers in his locally posted blog to last year’s appointment of Chief Medical Officer Dr. Susan Reynolds as “illegal and irresponsible.”

“The hospital insists the physician medical staff recommended her to the position,” Dorio wrote. “Going back to our core problem, The Joint Commission sanctioned the hospital for poor communication between the administration and Medical Executive Committee requiring a mediator to intervene. Dr. Reynolds was recommended as a mediator, to be paid jointly by both sides.”

Although Dorio identifies himself as the spokesman for the Medical Executive Committee, he has yet to return any phone calls made by The Signal for comment.

Corlin also likely will find in his review of last year’s board minutes concerns voiced by dissenting doctors that their group is being marginalized and their collective voices silenced.

“The physicians are entitled to have a substantial say in many of the items that go on at the hospital,” Corlin explained.

“But it is the hospital administration that has the responsibility to integrate all of those things. And I think they’re doing it,” he said.

“The fact that they are reaching out to get an outside physician with a background with the Medical Association points to the fact that they are interested in doing anything constructive that they can do to try to resolve this and get beyond some of the dissension that’s occurring.”

Chief medical officer
On Sept. 7, Dr. Susan Reynolds began work as the hospital’s chief medical officer.

She was hired short term for a specific job. Some doctors say she was a “hired gun” for the administration.
Her field of expertise?  Hospital leadership.

Reynolds signed a six-month contract to define the role she held at Newhall Memorial.

She is founder, president and chief executive officer of the Institute of Medical Leadership and is called on regularly by Fortune 500 companies to share her thoughts on “leadership and management challenges,” according to her biography posted on the institute’s website.

A former emergency physician and CEO of an emergency medical center, Reynolds created the Physician Leadership Training Institute for the American Medical Association.

Eight years ago, she served on the White House Health Professionals Review Group.

“I’ve known Susan for a long time,” Corlin said. “I have a lot of confidence in her.

“Her background is working in hospitals — first with emergency rooms — and then as an officer of the county medical association. She runs an organization that provides leadership and education and coaching for medical staff leadership, so she is fully aware of the medical staff leadership-related issues.

“Having a chief medical officer — that’s a hospital position and there’s usually some medical staff input to the selection. But the chief medical officer is an employee of the hospital. It should be somebody who can understand the mentality of the physicians, and I know Susan can.”

According to Dorio, however, Reynolds failed to understand the mindset of Newhall Memorial physicians.

“It was not surprising Dr. Reynolds, under the guise of her title, ramped up their ‘gameplan’ and became a source to propagandize conflict and acrimony against the medical staff instead of enhancing communication,” he wrote in his blog.
Reynolds wrapped up her stay at Newhall on March 6. She was unable to be reached to comment on this story.

Corlin has praise and respect for Reynolds’ successor, interim chief medical officer, Dr. Richard Frankenstein.

Interim CMO
“There’s a new chief medical officer coming in who is very, very knowledgeable — Dr. Richard Frankenstein,” Corlin said. He added that Frankenstein is very familiar with The Joint Commission.

So, as Corlin pursues his homework reviewing the claims, accusations, complaints and suggestions apparently articulated in the minutes of board meetings this past year, the doctor pledges to begin by taking the patient’s temperature.

“A lot of times, what goes on individually at an individual hospital depends on, first of all, what kind of hospital it is,” he said, listing county, university, community and major teaching hospitals as some of the categories.

“Each of them needs to have a slightly different adaptation of the same basic rules and credentials to make it work for the community that they serve — that’s item No. 1,” Corlin said.

“Item No. 2 is to take a look within that group, and in this case within the group of it being a community hospital. And basically say, ‘OK, is what we are doing average and typical for what goes on within a community hospital? Or is it a deviation, a change, from what is average and typical?’
“Coming up with the answer will likely determine Corlin’s legacy at Santa Clarita Valley’s only hospital.

“What I hope comes out of this — by the time, whenever my service on this board ends — is that I’ve been able to contribute to the continued advancement of the institution and to having it be a more cohesive institution which has a smoother operation.”


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