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



EPA Overreach Jeopardizes Jobs And Increases Energy Prices

The latest round of regulations by the Environmental Protection Agency are difficult to rationalize. The EPA’s planned greenhouse gas rules will jeopardize low-cost electricity relied upon by local governments, small businesses, farmers and manufacturers – a regulation whose impact will be felt by much more than just energy producers and utility companies – but throughout the ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Lamenting ‘The Last Day’

I wasn’t at Fenway Park yesterday but I know what happened. Yes, it was No. 2’s last game of a great career, and more Yankees fans than usual were packed into Boston’s holy ground to see Derek Jeter’s swan song. But what I know happened has become an almost sacred rite, when towards the final out of the last game of the season Red Sox radio announcer Joe Castiglione will read a ... (click for more)

EPB Says Bottom Line Is It Owes City $17,049 For Street Light Billing; DePriest Says Figure Is Starting Point For Talks With City: EPB To Ask Dismissal Of "Frivolous" Lepard Lawsuit

EPB officials on Tuesday morning released a report by Mauldin & Jenkins, the independent accounting firm charged with analyzing the process errors that led to questions about billing for public street lights, that gives a bottom line figure that EPB owes the city of Chattanooga $17,049. Harold DePriest, EPB president, said that is a starting point for ongoing talks with the ... (click for more)

DA Sets Up Process To Review 120 Cold Cases Murders Dating Back 40 Years

District Attorney Neal Pinkston said at a morning press conference on Tuesday that he is setting up a process to review 120 cold case murders in Hamilton County dating back some 40 years. He said former city major crimes detective Mike Mathis will be working out of his office on the cases. He is familiar with most or all of the cases, it was stated. DA Pinkston said Sgt. Bill ... (click for more)

Baylor Impressive In Volleyball Sweep Of Signal Mountain

Baylor coach Sarah Lail paused briefly before saying that she's seen her Lady Red Raider volleyball team play better than they did on Monday, but they did just about everything right as they celebrated Senior Night with an impressive 3-0 victory over the Signal Mountain Lady Eagles. It was a meeting of two of the top three teams in Chattanooga -- too bad that Ooltewah couldn't ... (click for more)

Basketball, Wrestling Mocs Host Ball N' Brawl

It’s party time in the Scenic City. Chattanooga’s team is sending some of its best to close down 3rd Street on Friday, October 10, for Ball N’ Brawl. This inaugural event features the men’s and women’s basketball programs along with the wrestling team. “This was an idea coaches Heath Eslinger (wrestling) and Will Wade (men’s basketball) came up with,” Director of Marketing and ... (click for more)