Can the Zs Save Highlands From
A few times now, Commissioner Vince Zapotosky has said
that he wants to be known for more than just being one of the
Vinces sued by their fellow commissioner. He genuinely seems
to mean it, too. Well, here's his golden opportunity to step up
and do it.
Today was supposed to be the day when the Highlands
Hospital CEO, hospital lawyer, Zapotosky and Commissioner
Angela Zimmerlink were to meet to discuss the hospital
psychiatric contract and the surprise news two months ago that
Uniontown Hospital received a county Medicaid behavioral
health contract last March. An unfortunate death in
Zapotosky's family, however, changed those plans today.
Some of us skeptics wondered if the meeting, requested by
Highlands to meet with the two "conflict-free" commissioners,
was scheduled for a day when Commissioner Al Ambrosini
was safely tucked away in North Carolina at the Democratic
National Convention. In other words, was his being away a
reason for the meeting date planned so that the county would
not have had to address Highlands request to meet without
In the letter that Attorney Daniel W. Rullo wrote on Highlands'
behalf to the commissioners on 8/21/12, Ambrosini was
described as a public official having "an apparent conflict of
interest... with Uniontown Hospital," given that Ambrosini's
spouse is a high-ranking official at Uniontown Hospital.
Even though Zapotosky told this editor that he felt Ambrosini
should recuse himself from the hospital meeting, and even
though Zapotosky's first instinct was to call the governor's
office and the secretary of the department of public welfare in
mid-July to intervene, when he and the commissioners received
a letter from the Highlands CEO expressing shock that
Uniontown Hospital received a county inpatient behavioral
health contract... and even though he has left lengthy voice
mails for this editor stating that Highlands deserves to be saved,
there's still doubt that he really means it enough, in the long run,
Just a few days ago, however, Zapotosky seemed to be
re-energized again to save the 373 jobs at Highlands Hospital
and that facility's inpatient psychiatric business. It's no secret
that he was displeased with the FCBHA director's actions, by
not telling the commissioners and public for almost 6 months
that Uniontown Hospital had become a behavioral health
provider. Her actions seemed to side track him for a while.
Zapotosky seems to go back and forth with this issue of saving
Highlands. He should stick to his guns on this one of wanting to
save the hospital, even if that makes him unpopular with
It's easy for Ambrosini to criticize Highlands CEO Michelle
P.Cunningham for writing her SOS letter to the commissioners
in mid-July and mailing copies to various other community
leaders to try to gain their support.
Ambrosini, as we first-hand witnessed, scolded Highlands
employees at the 8-14-12 public information meeting at
FCBHA because Cunningham wrote that letter and mailed
copies to others. But as this editor asked Zapotosky last week,
what really would have been "an appropriate" response from
In all fairness to her, look at the situation through her eyes.
She's told many times that Uniontown will not become a county
provider. Zapotosky quickly got her and the FCBHA director
on the phone when he received the mid-July SOS letter. The
FCBHA director reportedly denied on the phone that
Uniontown had a contract. Zapotosky reportedly told the
FCBHA director she was "fired if it's true!" Zapotosky also
relayed that the director also said on the phone that Highlands
was full... and we all know that wasn't true. And during that
short call, the FCBHA director reportedly told Cunningham
that she should not have written to the commissioners.
Then, we can't forget, that it took the FCBHA director another
three weeks even to admit the truth to Zapotosky -- i.e., that
she provided verbal approval for Uniontown to receive the
Medicaid behavioral health contract with the county's insurance
provider, VBH, 5 months earlier.
Looking at it still from the Highlands CEO's point of view, then
in the other corner we had Ambrosini insisting that the county
would not meet with Highlands without the Uniontown Hospital
CEO being present... and Zimmerlink jumping to investigate
what had happened.
How else should a hospital CEO, whose facility has helped the
county effectively manage behavioral health care needs for 40
years, have reacted to all the chaos and deceit?
Since the meeting today with Highlands and two commissioners
was cancelled, another meeting reportedly is tentatively being
scheduled. Neither Zapotosky nor Zimmerlink has replied to a
request from this editor today to state when or if another
meeting is being scheduled.
However, as per a good source, another meeting is being
planned... and Ambrosini is said to be coming.
Perhaps the county solicitors have weighed in and believe that
Ambrosini is not in conflict or that the Uniontown contract was
secured properly without commissioner input. The redacted
1998 contract with VBH, however, did reserve the
commissioners' right to review new contracts with sub
contractors. Two of the current three commissioners
responded to Cunningham's mid-July letter in big ways that
indicate that they believed they should have known about and
approved of the March contract with Uniontown. And another
former commissioner also reportedly has weighed in that
commissioners' approval should have been sought.
What more will it take to have Ambrosini decide that it's in the
county's best interest just to sit this one out? Zapotosky or
Zimmerlink motioning to remove him as chairman and the other
providing the second? Until there's an opinion from the Ethics
Commission whether there is or is not a conflict of interest, isn't
it in the county's best interest not to seat Ambrosini at that
problem solving table?
Zapotosky needs to want to step up and work this one out with
Zimmerlink and Highlands alone. It's not a game or a ego
power kick. We need to see an act of respect directed to a
facility with a great record of treating and keeping the county's
patients out of state hospitals.
Highlands has had to deal with way too much BS already.
6 Sept 12
Since the story on the left was
published yesterday, the following
email came in today from
Commissioner Zapotosky also replied
today to say that another meeting is
scheduled tentatively for 9/13/12.
Julie Toye <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Thu, Sep 6, 2012 at 8:38 AM
To: Angela Zimmerlink
Is the meeting cancelled today with
Highlands since Commissioner
Zapotosky had a death in his family? If
so, has it been rescheduled?
<email@example.com> Fri, Sep
7, 2012 at 2:44 PM
To: Julie Toye <firstname.lastname@example.org>
yes and no.
Wed Aug 29 I provided my available
dates to meet with Atty Rullo/HH as
requested (county solicitor, 2 non
conflicting commissioners, HH)
By the afternoon of Fri Aug 31st, a
date/time was selected with the above
parties. (CommZapotosky said ok as
long as his leg is ok)
By the evening of Fri Aug 31st,
CommAmbrosini informed us of him
being out of the office 9/3 through
9/10. Also, Atty Cupp questioned the
need for advertising the meeting since a
quorum would be 2 commissioners.
Mon 9/4, CommZapotosky asked that
no mtgs take place this wk due to a
death in his family.
Between then through 9/5 a flurry of
emails (none by me) occurred on who
should attend, place of mtg, etc with a
date selected of 9/13 at 2pm.
Atty Rullo/HH has since, again,
reiterated their request for a mtg
with only the 2 non conflicting
I will again provide dates for his
requested meeting of the 2 non
conflicting commissioners and county
I trust this responds to your inquiry.