Dan’s dilemma

The changing of the guard at Enloe Medical Center has many, including us, wondering if this will spell changes to the leadership style of the nonprofit hospital.

We wish departing CEO Phil Wolfe the best and welcome his right-hand-man, Dan Neumeister, to the helm.

While at first glance it might look like “meet the new boss, same as the old boss,” we’re hopeful there’s more to it than that. It’s simplistic to think that Neumeister, an experienced hospital manager in his own right, was just Wolfe’s toady, doing his bidding when it came to layoffs and cost-cutting.

Wolfe did a lot to move the institution forward, and should be credited with myriad technological advances, as well as navigating the changing face of health insurance and government reimbursement rates. But it was also during Wolfe’s reign that Enloe chose to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to hire a union-busting firm to resist nurses organizing as an employee group. And, though the hospital’s staunch anti-union stance has been outwardly tempered in the last couple of years, it’s still clear that management and a vocal, populous group of employees are miles apart.

Neumeister already has a likely strike on his hands, with this week’s announcement by Compass-employed contract workers in dietary and environmental services.

The new CEO, even with Wolfe still on the sidelines, could choose to continue the status quo and become an even-bigger face of management that unions love to hate. Or, he could negotiate in good faith, broker peace and create a legacy that includes improved employer-employee relations.

We hope for the latter.

A good first step by Neumeister might be to relax the hospital’s tightly wound and extremely defensive public-relations department. A new approach could buy some much-needed good will with the community.