Hospital authority process offers inside glimpse

Jul 26, 2013

Because Haywood Regional Medical Center, now operating as MedWest-Haywood, was established as a public nonprofit entity, area residents will be able to learn a bit more about the board decisions concerning the hospital’s future than most.

Unlike the other partners that united to form MedWest — Harris Regional Hospital, Swain County Hospital and other healthcare facilities which were already “private” nonprofits — HRMC board actions must be taken in public sessions because of its “public” status.

That means as the Haywood Regional Medical Center board considers options that include selling, leasing or otherwise conveying hospital property, there will be a formal public hearing process. In addition, certain actions, including all votes, must be conducted in open meetings.

The MedWest governing board doesn’t have to — and they don’t — allow the public to attend their meetings or disclose financial information and other records that used to be public at HRMC.

In May, the MedWest board announced it was seeking capital partners following a report from a national consulting firm. While the report findings have not been shared, the board did decide to move forward as a unit to explore selling or leasing its operations.

Haywood is the only partner where the county commissioners must sign off on any agreement. That’s because of language included in a 1997 resolution conveying all property to a hospital authority.

The Clyde facility was built using bond funds authorized by the voters. When the funds were repaid, the property became part of a hospital authority, with the provision added that the county’s blessings must be secured before it changes operations or hands.

Community residents have a chance to address the Haywood Regional Medical Center governing board before every meeting, and Tuesday’s meeting at the hospital’s health and fitness center will be no exception.

Later in the process as a path becomes more clear, a formal public hearing will be held where citizens can voice their concerns or support for a different course.

For those unable to attend Tuesday’s meeting, keep watching for updates in The Mountaineer, including the dates of subsequent meetings where the public can weigh in formally on the issue.

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