The Hamilton County Commission is sure to evoke the wrath of some for scuttling a plan intended to make “my” Erlanger Hospital better but – curiously – our group of commissioners may have been ingenious to realize that more surgery is needed before the Baroness can return to health and stability. And I thank them today for it. Surprised, I hope not.
You see, I was among the strongest supporters when our local delegation of state legislators finally had enough of Erlanger Hospital’s staggering losses, dysfunctional leadership and wilting integrity several months ago and soon crafted a bill that would realign the Board of Trustees and – at long last – correct how some questionable hospital leaders were chosen.
It is no secret the hospital has lost millions – in dollars, doctors, and patients who can pay. We begged for somebody to do something. Anything. That’s when Gerald McCormick -- much to his credit -- valiantly huddled with our other elected state representatives, got a hastily-drawn bill passed by both the house and the senate and then had the governor sign it. I appreciate our state legislators and I thank them for the tremendous work and effort on behalf of their people. The sincerity and intent was wonderful.
But as urgent and desperate as the needs are at our Level 1 Trauma Center right now, it has now become obvious the time has come – I'm pleading within a week or two – for a peaceful summit talk between our state legislators, our county commissioners, the hospital’s new CEO, the hierarchy of our medical society, the existing Erlanger Board of Trustees, and even our new Mayor, Andy Berke (if he feels the city should again ante up to help in a state with the third-largest hospital costs in the nation).
County Mayor Jim Coppinger – respected by all – needs to host the party in a hurry. We cannot and must not stop a dedicated effort by all involved to find a viable solution to the madness that has imperiled our best healthcare solution. Together we can accomplish the best solution imaginable.
Oh, sure … our state legislators are steamed after working so diligently, and the county group is miffed because they found there was a little more cancer than the legislators found, our top physicians are mystified, the Erlanger Board has several of its “very best” trustees ready to toss in the towel, and County Mayor Coppinger has more than enough to do. Get over it. We need to focus on solutions. All of us.
But let’s hear what new CEO Kevin Speigel has to say – is this the time to fight for a 501c3 operating arrangement? Is this the time to have a joint sub-committee with two representatives from all parties sit down and realign the existing board?
Some trustees are ready to resign, sadly others must be asked to leave. So, sure, there is deadwood but there are some wonderful people who have been sullied by the actions of other trustees and must be not only asked to remain but reinforced with promising replacements. It is an easy fix, so let’s fix it!
Our Erlanger doctors need a definitive voice in plotting the course of health care for our citizens. Doctors can be greedy and self-serving and profit-hungry -- what's new -- but there is a core of identifiable physicians who bring medical wisdom that a layman will never be able to comprehend. They must never be excluded from the solution or, as has been witnessed repeatedly, they will leave if they are not part of what is ultimately best for the patient.
We have some brilliant minds on the current Board of Trustees and we have some who shouldn't have ever been appointed. They are equally easy to identify. This is why our legislators have determined the Board of Trustees are far better qualified to appoint future trustees than any elected official or a public election. An Erlanger board member should be a need-specific appointment and who better than the board to identify the best candidate?
Every faction will agree we need a mix of the best professionals we can muster, from every sector, to guide our Erlanger out of the mess that is now so easily identified. I am convinced, on testimony from those who have met Mr. Speigel, that his initiatives are good and true, but without the compass of a sound Board of Trustees he has no rudder.
Admittedly, I was hurt when I first learned our county commissioners rebuffed our legislative delegation but in talks with a half dozen people, I now believe the silver lining exceeds the dark cloud. What will save the day for Erlanger -- all the way from staff to patients -- is when our leaders come together seeking a solution rather than blame.
Jim Coppinger, who has an oath to preserve our best interests and who has been masterful thus far, needs to call for a Summit and, by doing so, he will end all the huff and bother, restore Erlanger to its rightful place, and create a Hospital Authority -- get this true -- that will save your child's life.
C'mon, let's get going.