WHY DOES A CHARITY OPERATE IN SECRET?
When the local hospital Board voted to dissolve themselves, they did so without looking at options, such as affiliation with Asante Health System, which operates three hospitals in Southern Oregon. Asante has publicly expressed an interest in our hospital, but to my knowledge no one on the hospital Board other than me has approached Asante. Now, after intense public criticism of their secrecy, SCH is paying a consulting firm $170,000 to evaluate strategies, including outside funding from three charitable foundations. The consulting firm is not permitted to audit the hospital financial records or make any recommendations –they are allowed only to list options for the hospital Board, which already voted to Regionalize SCH.
The most disturbing aspect of this process is the hospital Board’s refusal to include the public, beginning with their 2011 vote to Regionalize SCH, cast in a closed Board room at the deliberate exclusion of interested parties. Hospital Chief of Staff, Kevin Caldwell, M.D. objected to the Board’s Regionalization vote, noted that they did not understand the transfer of ownership, and asked for more time to study the issue. Nevertheless, the Board voted to Regionalize over his objection. The hospital Board meeting minutes, hospital financial date, and even the membership and discussions of the current “steering committee” on the hospital study, all remain secret.
The hospital Board has not held a single public forum since their decision 20 months ago to transfer SCH ownership to Sutter Health. Last month, the hospital CEO and Board Chair abruptly withdrew from a Town Hall event they had committed to attend. No observers are permitted to attend Board meetings. The Board Chair will not allow community letters of concern to be discussed in the Board room.
Last week, The Joint Commission, a national accreditation agency which certifies hospitals, validated physician concerns that the SCH Board had inappropriately excluded physicians from hospital policies, in violation of our bylaws. SCH leadership received four Joint Commission citations for failing to address physician concerns regarding Regionalization.
SCH is a locally owned public benefit charity, with a monopoly over local hospital care and the privilege of tax exemption. Sutter Health, and the SCH B oard, are making decisions which will affect the lives of 41,000 people within the hospital’s service area.
Given the level of public concern, is it not appropriate for Sutter to release the documents the public needs to understand this issue? Why does Sutter continue to operate behind closed doors, hold secret meetings, and withhold critical information this community needs for our long term planning?
I applaud the County Supervisors for asking Sutter to release this information. Let’s end the secrecy. With Sutter Health’s approval, I will make all the documents available on our website at www.crescentcityhospital.blogspot.com, including a link to the audio recording where Sutter Health Regional President Mike Cohill discusses Sutter’s program to outsource jobs, and confirms that SCH is still a locally owned corporation. Printed information, and a petition opposing Sutter’s plans, are available at my office on 1200 Marshall St. To receive future newsletters, please send me an email at: email@example.com
I deeply appreciate the support from everyone who has joined our effort to stop Sutter Health, and preserve a locally owned, full service hospital.
Gregory Duncan, M.D.
Chief of Staff
Sutter Coast Hospital