Friday, October 23, 2015

TOP STORY >> Nurses singing doctor’s praises

Leader staff writer

Carol Hopwood, a nurse with 16 years of service at North Metro Medical Center, had been planning for a while to retire with her husband.

Her husband retires this month, but she is not now. “I could, but with Dr. Tracy Phillips running things here, it’s a joy to be at work. It wasn’t always that way.”

Hopwood is one of three nurses, with a total of 50 years experience at North Metro, who sing the praises of the maligned Dr. Phillips.

Phillips was asked to resign by then-CEO Joe Farrer, a state representative from Austin, about two months ago because the doctor was in possession of alcohol at the hospital.

Phillips, who is in a voluntary sobriety program and proudly states he has not had a drink in more than two years, explained that the alcohol belonged to his son and he got stuck transporting it home. Rock Bordelon, one of the hospital owners and CEO of Allegiance Health, which manages the hospital, sided with Phillips and stated that the hospital handbook allows alcohol in numerous places at the hospital.

But the hospital’s human resources department refuses to let the newspaper have a copy of the handbook.

Phillips stayed and Farrer left, but Bordelon said the CEO’s departure had nothing to do with Phillips staying.

Sheila Baxter, another nurse with 18 years at North Metro, said Phillips “was the first positive doctor the hospital has had in a long time.”

Hopwood said you have to love the hospital and the people to stay there; it’s not for the money. “We haven’t had a raise in seven years, but I’m happy to stay,” she said.

About Dr. Phillips, Hopwood said, “He practically lives here. He’s nonstop about the patients.”

Michelle Ward, a 16-year veteran of nursing at North Metro, said patients adore him and many drive up from Pine Bluff because he’s here. “We’re a team now, and we haven’t always felt that way,” she said.

All three nurses said Dr. Phillips praises them and gives them positive feedback. Before him, it was “such a dictatorship. We weren’t allowed an opinion,” Baxter said.

She added that the hospital serves 50,000 people. “That’s a huge number,” she said. “People don’t realize how critical we are.”