Paying ex-RVHS CEO a tough pill to swallow

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 25, 2003

Tribune editorial staff

Trying to use words to describe what happened Monday morning behind closed doors inside the Lawrence County Courthouse is a bit difficult.

A slap in the face, an insult, a travesty of justice? None of the phrases seem to capture the raw anger and disgust many of us felt after hearing that Terry Vanderhoof, former administrator of Lawrence County's now-defunct hospital, will receive

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$65,000 in severance pay.

The settlement reached by Vanderhoof and the receivership of River Valley Health Systems may be legal, but it certainly does not seem just or ethical, especially if you are a former hospital employee.

In hindsight, the board should have never approved a contract containing such a generous severance package. Of course in 1995 when the contract was first signed, who would guess that six years later, Vanderhoof would be fired after the hospital accrued $18 million in debt on his watch?

While legally, Vanderhoof might be entitled to the funds, morally, we find paying him a difficult pill to swallow.

Without knowing all the answers to the questions surrounding the hospital's downward death spiral, the facts that are known paint a pretty clear picture of ultimate responsibility.

Vanderhoof, as River Valley's CEO was charged with leading the hospital's day-to-day operations. An obvious portion of that task was keeping the hospital's profitability under careful watch. This is among the most basic responsibilities of any CEO or administrator.

Smothered with debt, the hospital closed the month after the board asked for Vanderhoof's job, which it deemed as obviously deficient.

So now, despite the frustration we share along with a number of former hospital employees, one question remains: Will anyone ever have to take responsibility for the hospital's demise?

The issue of the hospital already smells badly. Unfortunately, the longer questions linger about why the hospital closed, the more the stench builds.