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Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Hospital staff and officials speak out at meeting:
Mason’s termination from WCCHS again comes into public question

The former chairman of the Wyoming County Board Supervisors on Tuesday publicly questioned the termination of Dr. Paul Mason’s contract with the WCCHS.

Arcade Supervisor Doug Berwanger
ArcadeSupervisor Doug Berwanger spoke during a session of the board’s Committee of the Whole. He’s also a former member of the Wyoming County Community Health System’s Board of Man-agers.

Berwanger said the hospital is a department of the county. As a result every hospital contract has to be approved by the board of managers, and there is a county resolution from 2011 requiring every hospital contract in excess of $50,000 to be approved by the county’s Board of Supervisors.

“The contract approvals or any changes or terminations have been consistently handled through that process,” he said.

Arcade Town Supervisor Doug Berwanger, expresses concerns and questions the validity of the termination of Dr. Mason from WCCH at the Wyoming County Board of Supervisors Meeting on Tuesday March 8, 2022.

Berwanger said that at a Jan. 25 board of managers meeting, it’s widely recognized Mason’s contract was terminated. However, he said what actually happened was there was a motion by Dr. J. Thomas Reagan and seconded by Dr. James Wawrzyniak that the board of managers wished to pause pursuing the termination of the Buffalo Bone and Joint Surgery contract. As a result there is no vote to terminate the contract.

“The attorney wrote a letter to Mason terminating his contract on Feb. 8,” Berwanger said. “So how did Joe McTernan cancel it and he wasn’t even authorized to do so without board resolution anyway? So who directed the attorney to do the termination?” McTernan had died Jan. 24 after a brief illness.

Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Becky Ryan said they would be going into an attorney-client discussion following the Committee of the Whole meeting and all his questions would be answered.

The crowd pushed for a statement to be released after the discussion with the attorney.

No statement was released as of press time Tuesday.

Minutes from the Jan. 25 meeting were made public online later on Tuesday afternoon. They showed that the motion to pause the termination was defeated 2-7. The Daily News had requested the minutes in February.

No resolution for the termination of Mason’s contract has been presented to the Board of Supervisors.

Berwanger’s statement occurred during the session that — although typically sparsely attended — saw members of the public gathering into the supervisor’s chambers at the Wyoming County Government Center, to fight for Mason’s reinstatement.

The chamber was packed with people sitting on wooden chairs, papers in hand, waiting to speak about Mason’s contract or support those who did.

Mason — a highly popular orthopedic surgeon — had been with Wyoming County Community Health System since 2014 and went full-time with the facility three years later. He has been cited by many as a key figure in turning the hospital’s once-problematic reputation around, and replacing it with one of excellence.

Mason’s contract was terminated by the WCCHS board of managers — a highly controversial decision which has generated protests, including among doctors and staff.

Karin Rice, a registered operating room nurse at WCCH, started an online petition last month to bring Mason back. The petition currently has more than 2,500 signatures. Rice said during Tuesday’s meeting that this number was close to 8 percent of Wyoming County’s voting and tax-paying population.

“Dr. Mason ranks in the top 1 percent in orthopedic surgeons not only in the rural community comparison but at a national level as well,” she said.

Rice said from the time former CEO Joseph McTernan came two years ago there were problems that were not present, to her knowledge, under retired CEO Donald T. Eichenauer. She said it became apparent from the start McTernan was determined to remove Mason from his position and tarnish his outstanding reputation.

“Our previous CFO Amy Chase indicated at the time of her resignation in writing in her correspondence to the board of managers that everything Mr. McTernan centered on revolved around Dr. Mason or his supposed shortcomings,” Rice continued.

She alleged e-mail correspondence exists showing McTernan refused to provide any financial information to Dr. Mason and forbade both Chase and the director of the orthopaedic clinic at the time to provide him the information which was easily accessed prior to McTernan’s hiring.

Carrie Vangrol, owner of Warsaw Family Care, said she looked at the requirements for the new CEO. She said there are no requirements — no education requirements, no leadership requirements, no exper-ience requirements and no residency requirements. Vangrol said there is a requirement to change the status quo, and asked what that means.

Vangrol said the hospital is $1.5 million in debt and asked where the state and taxpayer money went.

Laura Dutton, a registered professional nurse at WCCH, said staff are afraid to come forward.

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