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Dr. William Dougherty, a triple-boarded surgeon, was terminated from Holy Cross Medical Center in early July, sparking an outcry from some of his patients.

Businesses don't like costly lawsuits.

A search of the New Mexico Courts database revealed just two civil tort claims against Holy Cross, one of which was filed by a traveling nurse who claims she was wrongfully discharged after witnessing and reporting several alleged patient safety issues to administrators. The other pending lawsuit, a malpractice claim filed in New Mexico's Eighth Judicial District, names Taos Health Systems (doing business as Holy Cross Medical Center and Taos Breast and Plastic Surgery) and Dr. William Dougherty, a triple-boarded surgeon CEO Bill Patten terminated this summer, causing blowback from many of his patients.

(1) comment

Christopher Painter

I’m guessing Lynn Skall’s expertise doesn’t lie in messaging or PR. Is it just me, or does it feel like she just gave the Taos community two middle fingers?

While it’s difficult to sort through how exactly how Holy Cross is managed, and how exactly HCMC board is appointed and maintained, it is a 501c3 non-profit and I’m not exactly sure how firing Dr. Dougherty fulfills their mission statement.

It would have been easy to just let Lynn’s lame and somewhat reprehensible analogy go, but her dismissive tone of stating HCH is a business and is under no obligation to the desires of the community is a little hard to take. Afterall, the hospital is generously supported by Taos County property owners through mil levy taxes in the amount of millions of dollars (around $1.4 million annually I believe). Furthermore, the Taos News (an example of a news organization such as Lynn described) is not housed in a county constructed and financed facility (again, tax-payer money.) Nor is a portion of the Taos News’ board appointed by county commissioners (elected officials). And while journalists perform a vital role in a healthy, functioning society, they are not in the daily business of directly saving lives. Make no mistake Taos, and this is stone cold truth, not emotional hyperbole, people will now die that may not have otherwise because of the choice of management and complicit board members to let Dr. Dougherty go. It might be you; it might be a loved one, and it will definitely be members of our community. For what? So a few egos could be assuaged? Lynn might be correct about the day to day business dealings of the hospital, but when there is consensus amongst the community and staff, the board should be receptive to the public’s concerns.

I honestly don’t understand why the Board and CEO are so defensive. I don’t have enough information to form an opinion on how the hospital has been run the last many years, but this choice to let an extraordinary surgeon go continues to baffle. Especially in the way it was performed. If Dr. Dougherty exhibited behavior that was detrimental to the working environment at HCH, why not mediate the issues? It seems to me that a functioning, responsible “business” would recognize Dougherty’s value and contributions to the community and do everything in their power to keep him. Serving the community of Taos is HCH’s top priority and this choice has shaken mine and many others faith (perhaps reaffirming for some that HCH is a third-rate operation) in the hospital’s ability to perform its primary function. I’m now wondering why my tax dollars should support HCH. I will also be paying very close attention to my county commissioner’s views on this subject and will vote accordingly. I hope the rest of Taos will do the same.

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