Just before noon on Tuesday, Nantucket Cottage Hospital staff found out via e-mail that their President and CEO Gary Shaw would be stepping down by the end of the month. For most, it was the first they had heard of his pending resignation.
Some hospital staff told the Current the news came as a total surprise. Others said they saw it coming.
“Not surprised,” one NCH nurse said. “He doesn’t really seem like the island type.”
“Nothing surprises me,” said another.
Many staff declined to comment about Tuesday’s abrupt announcement. But one who did have some thoughts to offer was Dr. Rocco Monto, the hospital’s orthopedic surgeon.
“I think he came here thinking he was taking the reins from Margot Hartmann with a community hospital in a bigger system and found himself in the middle of a pandemic,” Monto said. “Any judgement of his performance, being fair to him, has to be made in that context…Some of his frustrations may have come as the pandemic is winding down. Some people do a better job managing in a crisis than not in a crisis. Perhaps that’s the disconnect everyone is sensing. It also may be that he’s not the best match for the community.”
Monto acknowledged that running any community hospital – let alone one 30 miles out to sea – is a significant challenge for any healthcare executive. And finding the balance between leveraging Mass General Brigham (the hospital’s parent company) while also charting NCH on its own course is extremely difficult. But Monto said Shaw missed opportunities to capitalize on the talents of the hospital’s existing workforce and bring people together.
“Some things he did well, for example, he understood some of the public health aspects well, but I think he had a hard time recognizing the talent that we have available on the island and understanding that we’re an island of alphas here. We have strong personalities here and it takes someone with the ability to handle that to do well, understanding how to apportion the talent, leverage what we do well and know what we shouldn’t be doing and engage the community.”
Monto, who has been with NCH full-time since 2008, added that “It came down to vision, and I think that what he thought and where he thought we should go, there was a disconnect there. There was friction and he wasn’t able to energize the resources of the island. That’s what it comes down to. I’m not sure anyone could have done that in this environment. The only real criticism I had of him was that he didn’t do a good job of identifying our talent pool in the hospital and the community at large. There’s no reason for us to constantly be hiring outside people. We’re a miracle in the ocean. We shouldn’t exist. So how do you take this jewell and nurture it, but be demanding and wring everything out of everyone? We just couldn’t get on the same page. We can’t solve our problems by just going off island for things. We have to have a better commitment to our employees.”
Disclosure: the author of this report Jason Graziadei previously worked at Nantucket Cottage Hospital from 2013 to 2021, including during Shaw’s first year at NCH. N Magazine publisher Bruce Percelay is a major donor to Nantucket Cottage Hospital and the co-chair of the 2022 Boston Pops on Nantucket fundraiser for the hospital.