NASHVILLE - Hamilton County lawmakers say they are delaying a bill modernizing Erlanger Health Systems' governance structure after consulting with officials from the public hospital.
Earlier in the day, Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, delayed the bill in the House Health Committee.
"During our discussions with Erlanger over the past several weeks, we came to a mutual agreement that the focus now needs to be on the financial health of the hospital," said House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, in a news release. "Erlanger serves a critical health care role in our region and maintaining that service is the first priority."
McCormick said the need to modify the 1976 Hospital Authority Act and the possibility of creating an operating board is secondary to curing Erlanger's financial ills.
He said local lawmakers "are working with Erlanger to help resolve some of the funding needs," he said.
Kevin Spiegel, President and CEO of Erlanger, said in the release that "while we know that our governance model needs to be revised, our energy has to be on improved financial performance. Residents of our community have to know that they will receive the quality care that only Erlanger can provide."
The legislation would permit Erlanger's Hospital Authority board to consider the creation of a new not-for-profit operating board. Erlanger would maintain its public hospital status while being allowed to operate more efficiently.
"There will be an appropriate time to move forward with this legislation," said McCormick, "and that should be when Erlanger feels confident about its long-term financial health. Erlanger's role in the community is too important not to direct our immediate attention toward that goal."