JACKSON, Minn. (AP) _ A group of Catholic nuns resigned as managers of the hospital in this small Minnesota town after nearly 1,500 people gathered to protest suspension of the hospital’s obstetrics services and the resignation of a respected doctor.
At a joint meeting of the Jackson Municipal Hospital Board and the City Council on Tuesday night, hospital board President Steve Handke read letters of resignation by the hospital’s chief administrator, Sister Maureen McDonald, and the assistant administrator and nursing director, Sister Patricia Glowski.
The nuns are members of the Alma, Mich.-based Religious Sisters of Mercy, which has run the 22-bed Jackson hospital since 1981. Two members of a newly formed citizens committee were nominated Tuesday to help the hospital board find replacements for the nuns.
The resignations cited a desire to calm tensions that have risen in the southern Minnesota community of 3,800 people since obstetrics services were suspended Feb. 26 following a stillbirth at the hospital.
″It’s a relief,″ said Lance Edlin, a pharmacist and leader of a citizens’ group that had been trying to remove the nuns from hospital management. ″I’m not surprised. We had 1,000 signatures on a petition. We hope to get back to a harmonious relationship now.″
The nuns did not return a telephone call seeking comment.
Meanwhile, Dr. Gumersindo Alvero, who was one of the hospital’s two staff doctors, announced Wednesday he was withdrawing his resignation because of support from the community. The resignation by the nuns means the hospital has been brought ″back to the people, where it belongs,″ he said.
Alvero, who has practiced here for 10 years, said the woman involved in the stillbirth was not a patient of his, and said the cause of the stillbirth remains confidential. But he maintained that was not the key issue in the dispute.
″The issue was how they (hospital administration) discriminated against me. They investigated without giving me a chance to talk with the doctor who investigated the case,″ he said.
The board said Monday that it had been informed that a ″serious medical incident concerning patient treatment had arisen″ on Feb. 16.
In such a case, normal hospital procedure requires a review, the board’s statement said. After the board and Alvero were advised, the statement said, complete medical records were forwarded to Dr. Robert A. Diamond, an officer of the governing board of the Minnesota Obstetrical and Gynecological Society in Minneapolis, who serves as consultant to the hospital.
According to the report from Diamond, the mother was ″poorly managed″ during her labor.
Diamond said the mother should have been transferred to a hospital in nearby Worthington when, according to the medical records, she started exhibiting severe pregnancy-induced hypertension four days prior to delivery. He also said the use of fetal heart monitoring at Jackson Municipal Hospital had to be improved.
Edlin and others said there is no quarrel in Jackson with the quality of health care. In fact, the hospital board released a statement Tuesday night saying the sisters’ management of the hospital had been ″superior.″
Residents at the Tuesday night meeting voiced concerns about high staff turnover and an air of secrecy about the nuns.
″It’s a mystique of secretiveness that’s really got everyone in town wondering who the heck they are and what got them coming here,″ said John Sathe, owner of a funeral home in Jackson.