Roy Exum: Erlanger Must Move Now

Monday, January 28, 2013 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

An ancient Italian philosopher, Niccolo Machiavelli, once said wisely, “The wise man does at once what the fool does finally, so you can expect Gerald McCormick and the other state legislators from our area to introduce a bill today that will change the governance structure of Chattanooga’s Erlanger Hospital. And, almost as quickly, you can look for the current board of trustees at the hospital to go forward with a called meeting and name a new chief operating officer after a well-paced year-long search.

Understand, the legislators have asked twice that the current board slow its effort to bring desperately-needed leadership to our Level 1 trauma complex and, yes, there has been a collective gasp from hospital leaders since Thursday afternoon when the legislators unveiled a somewhat puzzling solution of what the new arrangement might be.

Sadly, there has been woefully little discussion between the two groups when, in fact, each is eager for the same outcome.

Over the weekend there has been a flurry of calls and meetings between members of the board and the legislators and, with key meetings now scheduled for this week, a sense of urgency by both entities has been established. Erlanger’s need for solid leadership can’t wait any longer and, while there is still time for certain amendments to be made to the proposed bill, everybody agrees that radical changes in how the city’s largest hospital will be operated are long overdue.

The CEO search, activated early last year in the wake of Jim Brexler’s departure, has gone well and three finalists have been vetted and interviewed. The board could take a vote right now and quickly allow a new CEO to take the reins of the 4,000-employee institution. To wait accomplishes nothing and the hire would effectively be among the last duties of the 12-person board that will be replaced under new guidelines.

Obviously there would be some members of the current board who would be asked to serve on the new one - their knowledge and experience far superior to someone who is unfamiliar with the complex situation at Erlanger. The current plan suggested by the legislators calls for seven voting members and two non-voting members but already that has been roundly recognized as folly.

There was also the notion a medical doctor should not be included when, in fact, the four MDs who now serve as trustees know more about the demands and needs of the hospital on a day-to-day basis than the lay professionals who have served in the past. Nowhere in the proposed bill does it say an MD cannot be selected as a voting member and there is the belief a member of the nursing staff or another non-medical employee might be beneficial on the board as well.

Where top-notch lay professionals lend strength is on the business end of the $800 million enterprise, and certain people like vice chairman Donny Hutcherson and  Jennifer Stanley have made brilliant contributions. There are others who have served admirably but also some who should clearly not be considered and now have an honorable escape route.

While the new governance plan is still sketchy, it is believed the legislators will meet with County Mayor Jim Coppinger once the bill is finalized and an initial board will be chosen, having different members serving for three-, two- and one-year terms. Members can serve up to three terms but as they rotate off – or other vacancies come available – the new board will fill the vacancies rather than politicians or special-interest groups.

Again, the most aching need is to get the proper leadership inside the hospital. A new CEO will have to hire a staff, replace some crucial mid-level positions that have soured, and begin a sweeping overhaul that will erase the $2.5 million lost by Erlanger in the first fiscal half of this year.

Capital improvements have been overlooked, the information technology system is terribly inadequate, employee morale has taken a terrible beating … the list goes on and on. The need for a new CEO is imperative and the current trustees believe that if it takes another year to go through the same search process again, the result would be disastrous to the hospital after losing $10 million in the last fiscal year.

One thing is certain – both the legislators and the hospital trustees must move quickly in an effort to reverse the deteriorating condition of our area’s top health provider. As football’s George Allen once said, “The future is now.”

royexum@aol.com


Candidates Should State Facts, Not Fiction

At a recent forum for candidates for the Signal Mountain Town Council, one candidate, Mr. Chris Howley, discussed a number of issues and presented “facts” using incorrect or misleading statements.   Here are several issues that should be clarified: 1.       On the road up the mountain:   “I called TDOT.   I talked to Ken Flynn.   ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Goodbye To My Scooter

The month of August turned out to be unkind, with my dog, my favorite aunt and my magnificent mother all dying within three weeks’ time. As I finally begin to push out the three newest dents in my soul, my habit has been to write something akin to a goodbye note to those I have loved. I’m not ready for Aunt Martha and Mother yet – not by a stretch -- but I remembered Scooter with ... (click for more)

EPB Says "Close To A Wash" On City Street Light Billing

EPB President Harold DePriest denied Wednesday that EPB owes the city over $1 million on street light billing. He stated,  “EPB has never said that we owe the city $1.2 million. When all the facts are taken into account, the financial difference is close to a wash.” Mr. DePriest said, "I regret that this complicated issue has been oversimplified in some reports. As we’ve ... (click for more)

New Red Bank Zoning Ordinance Is Ready For Review

The new Red Bank zoning ordinance is ready for review, City Manager Randall Smith said Tuesday night. It can be seen on www.redbanktn.gov and the link to zoning regulations. The new ordinance will replace one that was created 30 years ago.    The plan will encompass both residential and commercial development and is intended to direct ... (click for more)

Lookouts and Minnesota Twins Sign 4-Year Agreement

In a fast-paced, high stakes game of musical chairs with the three players from Major League Baseball - Minnesota, Arizona and Colorado - vying for one chair (Chattanooga Lookouts), the Twins from Minneapolis came up the winner Wednesday. Officials from the Minnesota ball club flew to Chattanooga Tuesday and signed contract papers for a four year player development ... (click for more)

Lady Mocs Volleyball Team Set To Host Scenic City Showdown

The Chattanooga Mocs returns to action Friday and Saturday at Maclallan Gym is they host the Scenic City Showdown – Presented by Hampton Inn & Suites.  Its second three-team tournament of the season, Chattanooga welcomes UT Martin, Stetson and South Carolina State to Downtown. “This is another great opportunity for us to display our city, campus and facilities ... (click for more)