PORT CHARLOTTE — Former CEO of Fawcett Memorial Hospital Bill Hawley tested positive for COVID-19 just weeks before suddenly resigning from his position, according to internal emails obtained by the Sun

Hawley served as the hospital's CEO for five years and then announced his resignation in an email to staff last Wednesday, citing personal reasons for his departure. His last day was May 8. 

Each of the emails obtained were sent from Hawley to all Fawcett Memorial Hospital staff. Fawcett spokesperson Alexandria Benjamin declined to comment on the emails, and Hawley has not returned phone calls. Here is what Hawley's emails state, in part, about his COVID-19 diagnosis and a timeline of nurse protests at Fawcett:

March 24 email:

"I want to make you aware that one of our employees has tested positive for COVID-19 and is now quarantined at home. The exposure appears to have occurred from interactions outside of the hospital. We are working with the Charlotte County Health Department in tracing the COVID-19 positive employee's interactions here to determine who at the hospital may have been potentially exposed. Colleagues identified will be notified by the Health Department and provided additional information."

March 27 email:

"I want to inform you all that I have tested positive for COVID-19 and will continue to self-quarantine at home as I follow the guidelines and recommendations of the CDC and the Charlotte County Health Department. Thanks to technology, I will remain virtually connected to you all in leading our efforts of this pandemic response. Rest assured that our screening process is working and we are identifying potential at risk caregivers at our restricted entrances to ensure your safety."

April 1: Fawcett nurses belonging to the union National Nurses United protested along with 14 other HCA-owned hospitals about the lack of personal protective equipment being provided to them during their shifts. This has been an ongoing complaint from the nurses since the COVID-19 pandemic started, along with inadequate staffing.

April 2 email:

"I continue to quarantine at home per the guidelines of the CDC and the Charlotte County Health Department and feeling good, only experiencing mild respiratory symptoms throughout the duration of this virus. I'm continuing to lead our pandemic response efforts and proud of the work that has been accomplished.

"You may see me in the hospital today for short while as my 14 days since exposure to COVID-19 test is due (per the CDC guidelines). I will be masked and entering and leaving through the ER while I go through our solidified screening process.

"I will be following the guidelines from the CDC's return to work criteria for healthcare professionals that are confirmed positive for COVID-19. Those guidelines are: 1) improvement of respiratory symptoms, and 2) negative results of an FDA Emergency Use (COVID-19 test) from at least two consecutive nasopharyngeal swab specimens collected (over) 24 hours apart.

"If both tests are negative, I will continue to follow the guidelines." 

April 7 email

"I wanted to give you all an update that I have had two negative COVID-19 tests collected (over) 24 hours apart … and will be returning to work tomorrow, April 8th. I will continue to follow the CDC guidelines of return of work for healthcare workers." 

May 1:  Fawcett nurses again protest about a lack of personal protective equipment, among other issues.

May 6 email: 

"I am writing this note to inform you that due to personal circumstances, Friday will be my last day in the office. I have agreed to be available throughout May should I be needed."

Fawcett Memorial Hospital did not have further comment regarding these emails nor his alleged diagnosis. Hawley did not respond to the Sun's requests for comment Friday and Saturday.

While searching for a replacement, Michael Ehrat, Englewood Community Hospital's CEO, is serving as the interim CEO of the hospital. 

Ehrat arrived at Fawcett on Monday, according to hospital spokesperson Alexandria Benjamin. Since then, he has been meeting with caregivers, managers, medical staff and leadership. 

"It has been a very positive experience for everyone," said Benjamin. "(This is) something he is planning to continue doing as well as meeting with community leaders and local businesses."

Fawcett employees say some staff members have tested positive for the virus, but Fawcett would not comment on how many employees have tested positive. Charlotte County Health Officer Joseph Pepe confirmed Thursday that Fawcett had COVID-19 cases, including some at the executive level. 

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