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CEO denies having “attitude problem” towards longtime LBJ employees

While the LBJ Medical Center board has a “100%” good working relationship with the chief executive officer — as claimed by board chairman Mase Akapo — there are concerns over the CEO’s alleged negative attitude toward long time employees. Questions were raised in this regard by Rep. Fetu Fetui Jr, during a House committee hearing last Friday.


The more than 90-minute hearing covered a handful of issues and one of them dealt with the working relationship between the board and CEO Joseph Davis-Fleming, who has been on the job for eleven months.


Mase describes their relationship as 100% good, saying that the board and management are working closely together to make sure that each department handles their own affairs and is running smoothy while being overseen by the board.


He said neither the board, hospital management nor the CEO can please and make everyone in the world happy — and there will be those who are unhappy with decisions made by the board or the CEO.


Davis-Fleming says that he has spent part of his time as CEO assessing the situation at LBJ. He reminded lawmakers that the governor had appointed a new board with “virtually no transition — or hand over — from the previous board early last year and the new board needed time to learn what was going on and to do an assessment.


At the same time, the board was faced with the hiring of a new CEO and on top of that the new board had to figure out a new fiscal year budget without having all the information they needed, he said.


Since then, there have been three new board members as well as other changes, which makes the situation at LBJ very challenging, the LBJ CEO noted.


“However, from my assessment, if given the proper resources, and the team to work with, in conjunction with the board’s support, it is achievable. I truly believe that,” Davis-Fleming said.


“Unfortunately, we’d have to overcome a series of difficulties… trying to carry out the governor’s mandates, including restructuring the hospital [operations] and the management team. And it really does require teamwork and everyone being on the same page.”


Rep. Fetu Fetui Jr. said he had heard some reports regarding the negative attitude of the CEO at the hospital towards employees who have been there for more than 20 years. “Are you now working along with people, or what?” Fetui asked the CEO.


Davis-Fleming responded that “any time you bring in a new CEO, in any hospital, there is going to be anxiety about the changes and obviously so, with LBJ. The question that I pose to everyone is — if you bring me in with the expectation to turn things around, obviously that’s going to require change. It’s human nature where people who have worked in a place for a long time do not necessarily want to see change.


“But, in order to achieve a different outcome from what you have experienced over the past 20-plus years, there’s no other way,” he said. “And so… some people may say ‘I may have an attitude problem’. I would say, 'maybe it’s a difference of opinion’,” the CEO said.


“We all have a different way of doing things. I came here to turn the hospital around and in order to do that — from my experience at many other places — it requires a different way of doing business,” Davis-Fleming stated.


Fetui interrupted, asking for the CEO to explain the changes he was referring to, but Mase responded instead, saying that the CEO’s statement is truthful. He reminded lawmakers that the CEO is new and so is the current board.


Mase noted that there have been unhappy employees and others who oppose changes being recommended by the board for the CEO to carry out and reiterated that not everyone will be pleased when changes are made. He requested the House give the new CEO and the board time to implement their plans for the betterment of LBJ.


For example, Mase pointed out, the hospital is carrying out various projects, worth millions of dollars, and when completed, there will be great improvements to the hospital. “We are also right in the middle of recruiting more doctors for the hospital” and in the future more doctors will come to work here, he said.


The board chair informed lawmakers that among the mandates handed down by the governor, one was to reduce the LBJ workforce as well as fees. “And we have been trying to work towards that end. In the process of doing this, there were a lot of people not pleased” with the actions taken — but many of them have come around to support the plans, he said.


Mase again urged lawmakers to give the hospital time to do what has been mandated by the governor.