Weighty issues face hospital board, new appointees
At Monday’s county commissioner meeting, board members increased the size of the Haywood Regional Medical Center’s board of directors from 10 to 11, an action touted as one that would make a tie vote less likely on weighty decisions that lie ahead.
The individual governing boards for the entities comprising MedWest — Haywood, Jackson and Swain healthcare facilities — are part of the mix in deciding the future of the organization. The board for the Jackson and Swain facilities wants to dissolve the partnership and a national consulting firm, Stroudwater, is studying the options. Stroudwater’s preliminary report has already been shared with the board, but its contents haven’t been made public. The final report is expected in June.
The high stakes involving hospital issues prompted the Haywood County Board of Commissioners to appoint only one of hospital’s recommended board applicants for two open positions and substitute Commissioner Kirk Kirkpatrick instead.
New HRMC Board Chairman Frank Powers said the commissioner action “threw us for a loop,” and he requested a by-law change from MedWest, HRMC and the county so hospital board nominee Neil Budde could be a member of the governing board.
The increased board size means Budde, Kirkpatrick and Dr. Al Mina will be the new board members joining reappointees Powers and Dr. Charles Thomas. Other hospital board members include Maurice Phillips, Jean Burton, Dr. Henry Nathan, Deborah Porto, Dr. Bennie Sharpton and Norman Yearick.
At last month’s HRMC board meeting, Kirkpatrick raised a question about the by-law change process after Powers announced the MedWest board had approved the increased board size before the HRMC board voted on it. Powers said he moved quickly so Budde could be appointed in time to attend an April 30 closed board meeting with Stroudwater.
Powers, who just replaced outgoing board member Cliff Stovall as board chairman, admitted he probably “got the cart before the horse."
"I’m new at this and I should have taken a vote first,” he said in a later interview.
Neither Kirkpatrick, nor the county commissioners, had an issue with increasing the hospital board size or with approving Budde as the new member, which they also did at Monday's meeting.
“With the issues facing the hospital, we wanted someone from our board on the inside,” said Commission Chairman Mark Swanger said about deviating from past practice to routinely approve those candidates submitted by the hospital board.
Though the MedWest board is the ultimate governing authority for the organization, the HRMC board makes decisions regarding physician credentialing and the hospital-owned property in Haywood. Two years ago the hospital property was used as collateral in a $10 million line of credit from Carolinas HealthCare System, the company under contract to manage MedWest. When the funds weren’t repaid in a year as was anticipated, the line of credit was extended. At the last report, MedWest-Haywood had used $8 million of the $10 million in credit available. In the event MedWest dissolves or operating funds aren’t available, the county commissioners will ultimately decide how the line of credit will be repaid.