Kent Hospital’s Brave CEO, Sandra Coletta: a Woman to Emulate

Why We Need More Women CEO’s in America

It happened 5 years back, in a relatively small hospital in this smallest of states–Rhode Island. But it happened to a big personality. A local woman brokered the historic compromise; as such, she became a even bigger player in the story. Most regard her the true heroine.

In 2006, James Woods’s brother, Michael, died following a heart attack and subsequent visit to the emergency room at Kent County Memorial Hospital. According to records and testimony, the doctor in attendance failed to note the seriousness of Mr. Woods’s condition; as a result, he died, lying on a hospital gurney in the corridor. He was only 44.

What happened next? The family hired legal representation and Kent Hospital responded to charges Kent Hospital was negligent and responsible for Michael Woods’s death. They stated the staff should have recognized his imminent danger.

Now, a nasty courtroom face-off promised to get progressively uglier.

Enter CEO and President of Kent County Hospital, Sandra Coletta. After several days of heated courtroom testimony, she tried a new tact. Quite simply, she apologized to the family for their terrible loss. Even more remarkable, Ms. Coletta agreed that the hospital “could have done better.”

Lawyers, courtroom personnel, opposing sides sat in stunned silence.

In a day and age when no power player accepts responsibility for things that go wrong, this CEO took a novel approach. In that one action on her part, she neutralized family fury and built a bridge of understanding.

At the close of that court session, the CEO of the hospital, James Woods, and his mother exited arm-in-arm. When reporters tried to bring the subject back to the loss and pain suffered by the family, James Woods shut them down, with a simple, “The hospital’s apologized…it’s over.”

His reaction proves: “A class act invites a class response.” Opposing sides had united.

What was further agreed to by the hospital? New protocol that would preclude a similar scenario regarding another patient. As such, the Michael Woods Institute would be formed, in honor of that man, where training would take place to facilitate new policy.

All in all, the agreement was a profoundly novel one.

So, respectful discussion…apology by the hospital…agreement to insure the same thing never happens again? A sea change in the way things are done in the medical world where, if something goes awry (and under the advice of lawyers,) the hospital assumes a bunker mentality, bent on keeping damages to a minimum.

Kent Hospital’s CEO, Sandra Coletta, did it differently. Maybe it’s because she’s a smart woman who recognizes what smart women have known for centuries: It’s far better to negotiate a difficult position and move on. Intransigence gets no one anywhere.

And that’s why we need more smart women in power positions today.

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