After a tumultuous seven months that has seen a number of resignations of hospital staff, the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services recently announced the imminent departure of New Hampshire Hospital’s chief medical officer, David Folks, M.D.
The hospital and two other mental health facilities in the state had, until June 30 of this year, been staffed under a contract with Dartmouth College and its Geisel School of Medicine. After Dartmouth College decided to end its contract, the state put out a bid for a new manager of the facilities.
The only bidder was Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, a separate entity from Dartmouth College, which was awarded the three-year, $36.5 million contract, scheduled to begin on July 1. The contract, however, was not immediately approved by the state’s Executive Council because of concerns about the departure of N.H. Hospital psychiatric staff members who had resigned during the transition.
The labor dispute began after Dartmouth College terminated nearly 300 employees in April. Although Dartmouth Hitchcock offered employment to most of those who were employed at N.H. Hospital, 10 of the staff members chose not to accept the new employment contracts.
To continue the upheaval, shortly after the Executive Council gave its approval of the Dartmouth-Hitchcock staffing contract in September, news broke within several days that the medical center planned to lay off up to 460 workers at its central location, with promises that this would not affect staffing at N.H. Hospital.
The announcement of the departure of the N.H. Hospital chief medical officer came shortly after. While no official reason has been given, and Folks did not respond to a request for an interview, DHHS put out a statement from Commissioner Jeffrey A. Meyers confirming that Folks had been chief medical officer since 2008 and that he has chosen to leave in January.
“Dartmouth-Hitchcock will immediately undertake a process to identify a new chief medical officer,” said Meyers, assuring the public that “the high-quality services N.H. Hospital patients receive” will not be impacted.
According to Jake Leon, DHHS director of communications, the state will push to ensure proper staffing at the hospital according to the contract agreement.
In his official statement, Folks said, “During my tenure, I have been (and continue to be) proud of the excellent clinical care we provide to all the patients admitted to NHH…I urge state officials to support the long-term relationship between NHH and the department of psychiatry of Dartmouth-Hitchcock for the benefit of the citizens of New Hampshire.”
In October, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center provided DHHS with an update showing plans for staffing levels at the hospital as of November 1. The plan shows expected staffing fulfilling requirements in all areas except for a shortage of one forensic psychologist and one (of five) resident/fellow.
By Catherine Robertson Souter