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The CBJ's Human Resources Committee cooked up some mischief Monday when two members of the four-member committee opted to replace two experienced members of the Bartlett Regional Hospital Board of Directors. Some members of the Assembly and Bartlett officials were surprised and mystified by this action.
As a matter of procedure, when the HRC cannot agree on a recommendation the question is moved to the full Assembly for consideration, which is what happened Monday night.
The two proposed candidates, Virginia Smiley and Reed Stoops, have good qualifications. However, this is a poor time to be considering changes in the makeup of the hospital board as Bartlett Regional is in the midst of a $40 million expansion project.
And, it was extremely poor form to reward Donna Herbert and Dr. Robert Breffeilh for their countless hours of dedicated service by summarily dismissing their retention as board members.
Volunteering for service on the hospital board requires extraordinary demands on one's time while a vast amount of technical and regulatory information must be studied and absorbed.
Therefore, hospital board members go through a steep learning curve before their effectiveness really begins to bloom. It may take two or three years to develop a strong director.
Donna Herbert and Dr. Robert Breffeilh have about 10 years tenure as volunteers on the Bartlett Board. Both served as Board officers and on the Board's Executive Committee.
Breffeilh and Herbert have devoted countless hours to educating the public regarding Project 2005, the hospital expansion. The board has been instrumental every step of the way in the planning and conceptual process. Now, as the design process approaches the final stages, the knowledge and commitment gained by board members is crucial to seeing the project through on budget. It would also be a shame to deprive the "architects" of this project the satisfaction of seeing it happen.
Breffeilh is an ophthalmologist. Bartlett spokeswoman Susan Christianson adds that "having physicians on the Board helps communication with the medical staff and strengthens the Board in its responsibility to evaluate hospital care. Having a physician on the Board benefits the process of certification of the hospital by the Joint Commission on Health Care Accreditation and other important certification entities and helps the board deal with its responsibilities for credentialing physicians and allied health professionals. While Dr. Bob Urata also serves on the BRH board, having two doctors has allowed there to be a back up with virtually one physician representative at every BRH board meeting."
Herbert works as a health care consultant dealing with Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement. Her firm is the state's largest in providing Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement consulting, yet her position on the Board has precluded her the opportunity to compete for business at Bartlett.
It is grossly unacceptable for these dedicated volunteers to first learn of their proposed replacement at a public meeting.
Protocol has traditionally dictated that sitting board members be accorded the option to choose whether they wish continue for another term. Then, as long as the volunteer has a good record of service, their re-appointment is usually a formality. If questions about suitability for service arise, it has been the Assembly's practice to contain the debate in the Human Resources Committee and not publicly air this laundry in an Assembly meeting.
This is not the first incident in which this common courtesy has been breached. We saw a similar transgression this summer when qualified harbor commission candidates were publicly embarrassed by the capricious actions of Mayor Sally Smith and the HRC.
Mayor Smith and Assembly member Frankie Pillifant have been on a mission to add diversity to the city's enterprise boards. Adding diversity is a good intent and one that should be pursued, however, the slipshod methods used to achieve this goal are not worthy of our city government.
The important work of boards such as the harbor commission, planning commission, and the hospital board require people with specific qualifications and experience. Tenure may well be the best insurance for the effective disposition of the board's work.
The goal of deepening diversity can be attained in time, as board positions are legitimately vacated.
We urge the Assembly to reconsider the replacement of BRH board members Donna Herbert and Dr. Robert Breffeilh. They simply cannot be replaced at this time when the Board's role is so critical to Bartlett's future.