In another sign of turbulence atop one of Kern County's most vital health care providers, a former senior official at Clinica Sierra Vista has sent a letter to its board of directors requesting an explanation for events surrounding the abrupt departure of former CEO Brian Harris on April 23.
Dr. Jeff Hanrahan, the former medical director of pediatrics who recently stepped down at Clinica, said he's received no response to the letter he emailed in early May requesting information on a shakeup that saw the exit of at least four senior executives within the span of a few days.
"I would like to have known why and what the reasoning was. I think a lot of people would. I think staff would, too," he said in a phone interview Friday.
Hanrahan's request underscores concerns that have arisen recently about the health and direction of an organization providing a variety of health care services for people with little or no medical insurance.
Clinica, founded in 1971, owns and runs a chain of federally qualified health care clinics serving about 200,000 people in Fresno, Inyo and Kern counties.
The Californian acquired a copy of an email purporting to show the letter Hanrahan sent at about the time he stepped down at Clinica. Hanrahan confirmed the thrust of the letter but disputed certain details in the text.
Hanrahan worked at Clinica for about a year. He would not say why he left shortly after Harris' resignation.
Board President Jerry M. Shipman said in an emailed statement Friday that he was unable to address questions about officials who have recently left the organization.
Shipman expressed full confidence in Clinica's leadership and structure. He emphasized the organization continues to conduct COVID-19 testing, treat people who are homeless and provide telemedicine and OB-GYN services during the coronavirus crisis.
"While a change in management can be disruptive, we are confident we have the staff resources to sustain the safe and efficient delivery of health-care services," he stated.
"We will be as transparent as possible but cannot legally discuss or disclose the reasons behind recent staff decisions," the statement read. "We have no further comment at this time."
Harris could not be reached for comment.
Several board members said they've been told not to speak with The Californian or discuss circumstances regarding the recent executive departures.
Board member Robbie Gerds said the business of Clinica continues and that "as far as I know we’ve been handling it very well and it sounds like we’re on track."
Gerds said she did not know who Hanrahan was or why so many executives have left the organization recently. She also said she didn't know whether Harris quit or was fired.
Reyna Villalobos, who served as chief of population health and strategic partnerships until she was let go April 3 as part of a string of layoffs at Clinica, said the recent disruptions in senior leadership have been strange and unfortunate.
Villalobos added that she wrote a letter to Shipman regarding her own departure and never got a response.
"When you have all these abrupt changes happening and there’s very little to no information, it becomes a toxic environment,” she said.
Clinica's chief human resource officer, 14-year employee Stacy Ferreira, has been appointed interim CEO during a search to find a permanent replacement for Harris.
Harris had a stormy tenure at Clinica lasting a little more than two years.
A former director wrote a letter to the board saying Harris' first year on the job had been chaotic. Later, a former chief financial officer filed a lawsuit accusing him of age discrimination.