published Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

Bill proposed to add trustee to board of Erlanger

  • photo
    An aerial image of the Erlanger in Chattanooga/Hamilton County
    Photo by Dan Henry /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

ERLANGER TRUSTEES

Name — Term expiration — Appointing body

Ron Loving — 11/01/14 — Chattanooga

Donnie Hutcherson — 1/18/12 — Chattanooga

Kim H. White — 11/01/13 — Chattanooga

Jim Worthington Jr. — 11/01/13 — Chattanooga

Richard Casavant — 04/18/15 — Hamilton County

Michael J. Griffin — 12/07/15 — Hamilton County

Jennifer E. Stanley — 01/18/15 — Hamilton County

Vacant — Hamilton County

Russell T. King Jr. — 11/21/12 — Chancery Court

Dr. Phyllis E. Miller — 11/01/15 — Legislative delegation

Dr. Nita Shumaker — 11/01/15 — Medical Society

Local lawmakers are working on a bill that temporarily would increase Erlanger's board of trustees from 11 to 12, adding a trustee who would be either a medical doctor appointed by the local state delegation or Erlanger's chief of staff.

"We are trying to give a voice to physicians and bring them back to the hospital," state Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga, said Tuesday. "This would be a quick fix to try to get immediate physician engagement on the board."

Meanwhile, the local lawmakers said they have decided to take more time to look at the 1976 Hospital Act that created Erlanger before making any comprehensive changes.

In December, local lawmakers said they planned to study the act after a city-county sales tax agreement expired last May. After the expiration, Hamilton County allocated $1.5 million to the hospital, but Chattanooga did not provide any money, leaving lawmakers questioning whether the city should keep its board appointees.

Berke and House Republican Majority Leader Gerald McCormick said they will continue to look at the issue and come back to the Legislature next January with plans to implement permanent changes to the board and the act.

"It's an old institution -- we didn't want to spend a month or part of a couple months to look at this," McCormick said. "We are going to take a more comprehensive approach."

Meanwhile, lawmakers said they hope the temporary change in trustees will give physicians more of a voice on the board and in the hospital. The 11-member board now has two doctors.

One county-appointed position is vacant after trustee Pat Quinn, president of U.S. Xpress, died in December. Mike Dunne, spokesman for County Mayor Jim Coppinger, said the mayor has had discussions about a replacement for Quinn but no decisions have been made.

The bill to add the trustee was on the State and Local Government Committee calendar Tuesday, and McCormick said he plans to bring the measure to the House floor for a vote as soon as it is out of committee.

If the bill passes, the additional trustee could be appointed as early as May, Berke and McCormick said.

The bill comes after months of turmoil at the hospital.

Doctors criticized former CEO Jim Brexler -- who resigned in December -- for how he handled physician relations. As fewer doctors performed surgeries at Erlanger, the hospital has seen staff cuts and more than $13 million in losses since July.

Trustee Dr. Phyllis Miller said she thinks the hospital is on the right track now. The board may take up the issue of a CEO search committee within the next month, but she said she doesn't think the issue is pressing.

"It's not that the ship is sinking. It's just a little awry," she said. "We are doing what we need to do."

about Mariann Martin...

Mariann Martin covers healthcare in Chattanooga and the surrounding region. She joined the Times Free Press in February 2011, after covering crime and courts for the Jackson (Tenn.) Sun for two years. Mariann was born in Indiana, but grew up in Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Belize. She graduated from Union University in 2005 with degrees in English and history and has master’s degrees in international relations and history from the University of Toronto. While attending Union, ...

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