Daniel Oglesby, the newly appointed CEO of Muskegon Family Care, said Friday, Feb. 28 that the healthcare facility based in Muskegon Heights has no plans to close and will instead attempt to revive the institution that faces deep financial concerns and terminated about 70 percent of its staff two weeks ago.
“It got out of hand, and there was an anticipated funeral service that will not take place,” Oglesby said, referring to the previous announcement that Muskegon Family Care would permanently close March 31. “The baby has life.”
Muskegon Family Care previously announced on Monday, Feb. 17 that it would permanently shutter at the end of March; the decision came days after the facility let about 70 percent of its employees go, according to Jen Anderson, the associate director of communications for the Michigan Primary Care Association.
But that closure, Oglesby emphasized, will not happen.
“There’s no reason to close this facility; this facility has great potential,” said Oglesby, whose first day at Muskegon Family Care was Friday, Feb. 28. “The people still need our services. Our challenge now is to fix what has been broken, move forward and continue to make this a great asset and medical home this community can be proud of.”
“I’ve actually put on the marquee that we are accepting patients; that’s what we are doing,” Oglesby continued. “I do not want to see this as a lost resource to the community.”
The new CEO replaces interim CEO Mitze Alexander as the head of Muskegon Family Care, which has annually served about 20,000 medical and dental patients. Alexander has served as the interim CEO since the end of 2019, when former Muskegon Family Care CEO Sheila Bridges was fired.
The Muskegon Family Care Board of Directors announced Oglesby as the new CEO in a press statement issued Friday, Feb. 28. Oglesby, a current Grand Rapids resident who previously lived in Muskegon for 14 years during the 1970s and 80s, has a background in healthcare and business. He spent 10 years as executive vice president and member of the Grand Rapids-based Spectrum Health leadership team and is the founder and pastor of the Living Word Christian Center Church in Wyoming, Michigan. According to the statement from the board of directors, Oglesby has participated in 89 mergers and acquisitions, including the merger of Grand Rapids’ Butterworth and Blodgett Hospitals, which combined to form Spectrum Health.
He has also worked in leadership positions at Amway Corporation, Dow Chemical, and Corporate Express.
The new CEO did not specify what Muskegon Family Care has done to address its immediate financial concerns that prompted the termination of 70 percent of its staff, but he said, “we have done what’s necessary to partner with resources and capable partners to keep this center open.”
“It’s appropriate to right-size, but we do not have to shut down,” Oglesby said, referring to the staff that were let go two weeks ago.
Former Muskegon Family Care employees who were terminated two weeks ago have filed a class-action lawsuit against their former employer; the suit argues that the former employees were let go without being provided 60 days of advance notice, as required by federal law. The employees are seeking 60 days’ worth of wages and benefits.
Muskegon Family Care may look to partner with another medical group in order to address its financial situation, Oglesby said.
“What we need is partnership,” he said. “I would be ecstatic if the local medical partners in the community would come to us under a joint relationship, but I will not let this place be pillaged.”
“My objective is to build a partnership and relationship with the medical community in this city or region that is going to allow us to retain our viability,” Oglesby continued.
While Muskegon Family Care issued a press release on Feb. 17 stating it would close March 31, which the facility has since deleted from its Facebook page, the new CEO accused people outside of Muskegon Family Care for igniting the message that it was closing. He would not specify whom he thought was responsible.
“We did not start the message that we’re closing; it was only the response to a loud cry that started with I believe a competitor, or at least someone who thought they were helping the community,” he said.
“It would be best for the medical community to assist in its healing rather than to pillage it like in a riot,” Oglesby continued. “That helps nobody.”
Muskegon Family Care’s previous announcement on Feb. 17 that it would close [you can see a saved version of that press release by clicking here] came as Michigan State Police have an “ongoing investigation into their financial situation,” said Anderson, of the Michigan Primary Care Association. Police said they are investigating “possible embezzlement involving staff members at the Muskegon Family Care facility in Muskegon Heights.”
“Those issues were compounded by the fact that the organization received significantly less revenue from Medicaid than anticipated,” rising organizational costs—such as for employee health insurance, and the “amount of debt owed by the organization,” Anderson said in an interview on Feb. 17.
“It was a perfect storm of financial complications,” Anderson said.
In an email to staff on Friday, Feb. 14, Alexander, the former interim CEO, said the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration “denied our request to receive advanced funding” on Feb. 13, prompting the board to make the decision regarding letting 70 percent of the staff go.
“After this news, the board met yesterday evening to discuss how to proceed with ceasing operations as we are unable to meet the many financial obligations that we are and will be facing,” Alexander wrote in the email.
Muskegon Family Care has for years faced concerns and complaints regarding financial mismanagement. A 2014 evaluation by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration reported that top officials at Muskegon Family Care did not properly track how it used federal funds and violated its own bylaws and other policies during its 2010-2014 fiscal years.
In 2015, the Health Resources and Services Administration said the facility had turned itself around and had begun properly tracking its federal funds. However, another federal audit in 2017 found further “significant deficiencies.”
At the end of the 2019, former Muskegon Family Care CEO Sheila Bridges was fired, according to employees and Anderson. Alexander then replaced her as the interim CEO.
As Muskegon Family Care faced financial concerns and questions, top-level employees’ salaries continued to rise. According to tax filings with the federal government, Bridges’ salary rose from $120,132 for the fiscal year ending in June 2011 to $461,113 in the fiscal year ending in June 2018.
In 2017, Muskegon Family Care provided a $288,567 loan to Bridges for a “personal residence,” according to the health facility’s 990 tax form filed in 2018 [which you can see here]. By 2018, Bridges still owed the facility $280,544, according to the same tax statement.
Other administrators’ salaries rose as well. In the fiscal year ending in June 2015, for example, Marsha DeBoer, the chief financial officer for Muskegon Family Care, made $58,515; by 2018, she was earning $183,180, according to the organization’s tax filing.
Oglesby said he is beginning to sort through the issues that Muskegon Family Care has faced.
“We’re going to have to work through some challenges that were created prior to my coming,” he said.
As Oglesby continues his work, he said he plans to center much of his focus on the facility’s patients.
“I’m here for the patients,” he said. “You have 20,000 people receiving services. To announce their medical home is going to close is devastating. I will fix this.”