Respect experience of hospital board members

Posted: Tuesday, December 11, 2001

The CBJ's Human Resources Committee exercised extremely poor judgment in removing Dr. Breffleih and Donna Herbert from the hospital board last week. In today's health care environment an in-depth knowledge of the regulatory environment and technical issues facing hospitals is not just valuable to the sound management of a hospital, it's critical.

As an experienced doctor in active practice in Juneau, Robert Breffleih brings obvious credentials to the board. Donna Herbert is one of the most knowledgeable people in the state regarding Alaska's Medicaid regulations. Combine these backgrounds with their long-term service and commitment to the hospital, and the training they have received as board members, and it makes no sense to replace them. The Human Resources Committee should feel lucky to have such qualified and committed citizens serve on its board, not summarily dismiss them.

Reed Stoops and Virginia Smiley are fine folks that I am sure would work hard to do a great job on the board. But they are replacing two equally fine folks with a bunch of industry expertise.

What is it that the Human Resources Committee doesn't like about the hospital? Bartlett is solidly profitable at a time that many small hospitals around the country are closing because of inadequate funding. Bartlett, over the last 10 to 15 years, has aggressively pursued a policy of expanding its technical capabilities. Bartlett has expanded and provides more services to patients at a time when residents of many small communities around the country have to travel from their homes to large cities to seek even some basic care not offered by their local facilities. Bartlett has involved this community whenever possible in its expansion plans through education campaigns and strategic planning. Because of these efforts Bartlett has been successful in attracting and retaining well-qualified medical personnel with diverse expertise. Why fix it if it's not broken?

Many small government-owned hospitals have self-perpetuating boards, like non-profit organizations, in order to keep political games out of the management of their hospitals. The Human Resources Committee made a great argument for having such a structure for our hospital as well (and the airport and harbor boards for that matter!). The hospital is simply too important to the health and vitality of our community to let politics interfere with it.

Max E. Mertz


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