published Monday, February 11th, 2013

Physician added to Erlanger's board in bill

Erlanger Hospital
Erlanger Hospital

It appears doctors will get a guaranteed voting seat on the Erlanger Health System board of trustees after all.

Final language of a bill to revamp the public hospital's governance puts the hospital's chief of medical staff on a nine-member board, House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick said Sunday in a news release.

Someone "experienced in corporate compliance" will hold another board seat, according to the release. And the bill specifically directs the new board to ensure the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Hospital Authority "purchases goods and services at competitive prices, and avoid[s] conflicts of interests among the Board, management, and current or potential vendors."

"The intent of this legislation is to provide Erlanger Health System with a governance structure more in keeping with the $500 million enterprise that it has grown to become," McCormick said in the release. "Reforming the board structure is another step in the ongoing process of improving Erlanger's competitive position, and providing the best possible service throughout our community."

Erlanger board Chairman Ronald Loving said Sunday night that, on behalf of the Erlanger trustees, "I thank the Hamilton County legislative delegation for its support of the Erlanger Health System and its mission.

"We especially thank Leader McCormick for transparency and openness in communicating with key Erlanger stakeholders regarding this legislative initiative," Loving said. "We now, with our executive team, turn our collective attention to careful review of the proposed legislation."

The presence of a physician as a voting board member was in question earlier as state lawmakers raced to write and pass new governance rules ahead of a vote by the current board on a new hospital CEO.

The Erlanger trustees in April began a search to replace former CEO Jim Brexler, who was forced out amid an exodus of doctors and cascading financial losses.

When it looked as if trustees were going to ignore lawmakers' request to delay the CEO vote until the new governance structure was in place, McCormick floated language that included a physician only as an advisory, nonvoting member. That set off a flurry of lobbying by doctors and physician groups.

The final version of the bill reiterates earlier versions: Nine board members, initially appointed by the General Assembly in consultation with the Hamilton County mayor. Terms are three years, and no member can serve more than three terms. Vacant seats will be filled by the board rather than by local appointing bodies.

The board must have its own audit and finance committees, plus an independent external audit committee.

The bill will be heard this week in the House Local Government Committee. The companioin bill in the Senate is sponsored by Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga.

about Judy Walton...

Judy Walton has worked 25 years at the Chattanooga Times and the Times Free Press as an editor and reporter focusing on government coverage and investigations. At various times she has been an assistant metro editor, region reporter and editor, county government reporter, government-beat team leader, features editor and page designer. Originally from California, Walton was brought up in a military family and attended a dozen schools across the country. She earned a journalism degree ...

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