On Friday, two Memorial Health System board members were asked to leave the hospital ownership task force and were replaced by members of the Regional Leadership Forum.
During a commission meeting this morning, Memorial board chairwoman Arlene Stein and trustee Vic Andrews were asked to give up their task force duties and sit in the audience.
Three members of the Regional Leadership Forum – Norwood developer Chris Jenkins, Economic Development Corp. Chairman Doug Quimby and Operation 6035 director Phil Lane – took their place.
The Regional Leadership Forum is an outgrowth of the Operation 6035, a consultant-driven economic development plan for the city, comprised of high-powered business leaders from across the community.
The group’s leadership, notably Doug Quimby, is also involved in leadership changes at the EDC and in plans to merge the EDC and the Chamber of Commerce.
“This (the leadership forum) is a way to get all the community leader’s in a big room talking, to solve the issues facing the city,” City Councilman and Memorial task force member Tim Leigh said.
Executives at Memorial Health System plan to stay involved in the debate over what happens to the hospital, even their representation was removed from the commission.
“We’re not washing our hands of the process,” said Brian Newsome, spokesman for Memorial. “We’re going to continue to advocate for the independent, nonprofit model, because we think that is the best value proposition for the city – and it’s the one vetted by the citizens’ commission and two task forces.”
City Council voted Tuesday to allow the forum to handle the RFP process, and the forum announced this morning that it would allow for-profit hospitals to send in their proposals as well.
According to Newsome’s blog about the meeting posted at http://thefutureofhealthcare.com/, Lane expressed concern that people were biased, and promised that the leadership forum would consider all options.
Leigh said removing Memorial’s representation from the task force was the right thing to do.
“Look at it this way, the Memorial board is going to submit an RFP to become an independent nonprofit,” he said. “If they are part of the process that decides who is going to be the new owner, they’ll have an unfair advantage.”
Leigh believes that there is a perception that Memorial’s leadership has been driving the idea of an independent nonprofit – and that there is a perception of bias in the earlier citizens’ commission that backed Memorial’s proposal.
“You have to remove that bias, and you have to be sure that you come up with the right decision,” he said. “Everyone I’ve talked to only wants what’s best for the community.”
Vic Andrews agreed, saying the meeting “moved the ball further down the field.” He said he was in full agreement with the steps taken Friday.
“I understand it,” he said. “We’re going to put in a proposal, so it makes sense we won’t be involved in the steps from here on out,” he said.
The task force also agreed to hire a consultant to put together the request for proposals, using the already approved Principles of Understanding as a guideline.
“No one on the task force had that expertise,” he said. “So they’re going to hire someone fairly quickly.”
Andrews also said he hoped the task force would follow through with proposals to add health care professionals to the task force.
“Not many,” he said. “Just a few, because they need to hear from the medical community.”
Even though the leadership forum is a private group, not subject to the state’s open meetings or open records act, Leigh said the process will be completely transparent.
“I promise you, if it’s not, I’ll make the proposals available – in some form,” he said. “People will get to see what’s in the proposals we get. It might not be down to the last dime because of confidentiality agreements, but the public will know. It’s the only way for everyone to be sure the process was unbiased.”