Giving up one's lifeblood and mission is a heart-rending task.
But it is time for Anthony J. Malone, president and CEO of the Madison County Community Health Centers, to relinquish his reins on his beloved operation.
Beginning in 1999, Malone guided the growth of the center from humble beginnings at 1101 N. Meridian Plaza to its current expanded facility at 1547 Ohio Ave. The staff list now names more than 75 people.
Back in those first days, the health center's patient population was 12 percent Hispanic and 13 percent African-American, so it was able to reach out to a diverse range of patients with limited access to health care. Malone's early work was heartfelt, from hosting a community cookout to starting a breast cancer prevention program to promoting the Madison County Healthy Marriage and Family Initiative, among many other critical services.
In 2001, a branch clinic opened in Elwood to bring health care closer to residents in northern Madison County. Also served by the clinic were seasonal migrant workers.
But the operation has grown too unwieldy for one man to believe he can control. Fires have been erupting, and Malone is scrambling to put them out.
Earlier this year, the center's chief medical officer, Frank Campbell, was investigated by the state.
The Indiana Attorney General filed a complaint with the Indiana Medical Licensing Board claiming Campbell allowed two assistants to use his licenses to write prescriptions for Schedule II drugs. Medications in this class have a high potential for abuse.
Campbell reportedly pre-signed the prescriptions so they could be used in case he was not at the center. An estimated 14,000 prescriptions were filled in 2012 using Campbell's registration numbers that "were most likely not authorized by (Campbell) from a medical examination, assessment or determination...," according to the complaint. The state licensing board has a hearing on Campbell's case set for December.
Malone may not have known this was going on with his medical director and assistants. But he should have.
In October, the Indiana Department of Health visited one of the sites where the health center administered vaccines to children. The publicly funded vaccines were given to children with insurance, which violated the state's requirements for screening and administering the vaccines. The state has barred the health center sites in Anderson and Elwood from providing publicly funded vaccines. A grant worth $224,800 is gone.
In addition, letters were sent Oct. 14 to four board officers in which the State Department of Health questioned the "integrity" of the health center's operations. The state will not sign a grant agreement with the center until seven conditions are met. Among them is the removal of Malone from his position as CEO and president of the center. He is to hold no other position at the center.
The center's board has the option of disregarding or following the stipulation.
Malone is now costing the center hundreds of thousands of dollars that should be helping a population in dire need of services. And to think that children may not receive vaccines is unforgivable.
Lately, Malone has also taken on a brashness that is unbecoming of the center's service to this community. He has stated that will not leave his post. It is time to rethink that posturing.
Removing Malone clearly takes institutional knowledge out of the operation — even its heart. But the integrity and funding of health care in this community is critical.
Madison County should thank Anthony Malone for his passion, energy and commitment in serving the needy, but it is time to find new leadership.
Editor's note: Herald Bulletin Editor Scott Underwood is a member of the editorial board and is secretary of the Madison County Community Health Centers' board of directors. To avoid a conflict of interest, he was not involved in the editorial board's discussion, writing and editing of this editorial.