Roy Exum: Now Come The Trustees

Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

A new governance structure for Erlanger Hospital is expected to sail through the Senate of the Tennessee Legislature tomorrow and, with Kevin Speigel just being chosen as the medical center’s Chief Executive Officer, Chattanooga’s Level 1 trauma center will hopefully enjoy a renewed atmosphere of reason and stability in the coming weeks.

But as both Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger and Rep. Gerald McCormick agree, perhaps the biggest factor in the hospital’s return to prosperity will be decided when a new Board of Trustees is chosen in the coming weeks to give much-needed stability after Erlanger’s present leadership has suffered $13 million in losses over the last 18 months of the fiscal calendar.

“We need a high-profile board of people the community trusts,” McCormick said hours before Spiegel was chosen, “and until now it has been premature to discuss any names. Once the bill is approved by the Senate, which it should easily do on Thursday, we will go before the County Commission and then begin the process of identifying the new board.”

According to the way the bill is written, County Mayor Coppinger and the local delegation will meet together to select seven of the nine persons who will soon direct the hospital and provide the leadership and oversight that Speigel will need to restore credibility to Chattanooga's largest health provider.

The other two new board members will be the hospital’s chief of staff, chosen by the hospital’s attending physicians and rotating on a yearly basis, and a member from “academia,” such as a professor from the UT College of Medicine that is located near the Erlanger campus and would place another physician on the board.

The “academic” representative will be chosen by the new board once it is installed, explained Rep. McCormick, and both he and County Mayor Coppinger expect some members of Erlanger’s outgoing board will be asked to serve on the new group that will be selected by the politicians. After the new board is seated, it will be solely responsible for all future appointments to the hospital’s board.

Spiegel’s task is daunting, especially in the early days as he must assemble an executive staff, acquaint himself with 4,000 employees as well as a new community, and tackle a “to do” list that begs attention from every conceivable direction. The biggest order is to stop the financial hemorrhaging; the hospital has lost $2.5 million in the first half of this fiscal calendar and the dysfunctional leadership has created serious problems in other areas where there are few short-term solutions.

That’s why the new board is crucial; in Speigel’s initial months he will need both direction and wisdom from the board and it is believed a change to a 501c3 non-profit financial structure is almost imperative from the beginning. An unsettled medical staff, a lack of capital improvements, poor middle management, a bewildering technology network and a lack of employee morale are just some of the other hurdles awaiting a forceful and decisive CEO and his team.

“We are well aware that the new board will have its hands full,” said County Mayor Coppinger, explaining that the selection process will actually be a team effort between his office and the local delegation of legislators. “Everybody realizes that this can’t be a collection of personal friends or relatives. The new board will be vitally important from the very start.”

McCormick said he had already thought of some candidates “and I am sure that others who will be involved know how important Erlanger Hospital is to our region. I think we’ll look at a lot of candidates but, honestly, this won’t be a public process. We wouldn’t want any citizen who we might discuss to be put in a position of explaining why they were or weren’t chosen.”

The new bill will have to be ratified by a two-thirds vote of the County Commission, but that isn’t expected to be a problem. The county commissioners know what has befallen Erlanger and are undoubtedly pleased the legislature has stepped forward to make changes that will better the hospital.

Hamilton County currently gives Erlanger Hospital $1.5 million every year but with indigent care rising and still-puzzling federal stance, Erlanger officials have requested a greater involvement from the commission. One commissioner has requested a “short list”  of trustee candidates but Coppinger has said there is no short list.

For all practical purposes, the day-to-day operations at Erlanger are being handled by a team of consultants from PriceWaterhouseCooper. Once the new board is seated and Spiegel’s team is in place, it is expected the consultants will be phased out.

royexum@aol.com



Technology In Education: The Future Is Now

Professional Educators of Tennessee are uncompromising advocates for more effective schools.  Because we now live in a technology-based world, we believe in the smart use of technology in the classroom to facilitate student engagement is no longer optional.   The use of online education and technology can also effectively address the age-old problem of having students ... (click for more)

Randy Fairbanks Will Make Rails To Trails A Priority

If you think the Rails to Trails is important to our community then please, join me in voting for Randy Fairbanks for the County Commission seat in District 1.   Randy is committed to revitalizing this important project and plans to make it a priority if elected.   Jamie LeMay Soddy Daisy (click for more)

Berke Names Fred Fletcher, Of Austin, Tex., New Chattanooga Police Chief

Mayor Andy Berke announced Thursday that Fred Fletcher of Austin, Tex., is his pick for Chattanooga Chief of Police. With 20 years of experience in law enforcement, Mr. Fletcher has served in an executive, command, or supervisory role for 12 years.  As commander in Region III of the Austin Police Department, Mr. Fletcher spearheaded community initiatives including a drug market ... (click for more)

Child, 23 Months, Found Dead In Crib With Fentanyl Patch On Back; Death Ruled Homicide

A 23-month-old Chattanooga boy has been found dead in his crib with a Fentanyl patch on his back. The death of Demarcus Bryant at 7655 Borris Dr. last month was ruled a homicide. An autopsy report says he died from "Fentanyl patch placed by someone else." Chattanooga Police are investigating. No one has yet been charged. The child was found face down in his crib. ... (click for more)

Signal Mountain Soccer Remains Undefeated, Clinches 7-A/AA Regular-Season Title

The Signal Mountain boys’ soccer team did more than just spoil Notre Dame’s senior night on Thursday. After Robert Schorr scored off Graham Eschmann’s throw-in in the opening minute, the Eagles went on to preserve their unbeaten record and secure their first-ever District 7-A/AA regular-season title with a 2-0 victory over the Irish. But even the very early lead wasn’t ... (click for more)

Ninth Inning Rally Gives Lookouts 5-4 Win Over Barons

The Lookouts trailed by a run entering the bottom of the ninth  -- headed for their third consecutive loss. Chattanooga rallied for two runs to pull the game out, 5-4.  Details to follow. (click for more)