Hutcheson Medical Center keeps meeting 'private'

Hutcheson Medical Center keeps meeting 'private'

June 2nd, 2011 by Chris Carroll in News

Hutcheson Medical Center. Staff Photo by Angela Lewis/Chattanooga Times Free Press

WHAT'S NEXT

Hospital Authority of Walker, Dade and Catoosa Counties meets June 15 at 5:30 p.m. in the hospice training room of the Hutcheson Home Health Building.

Several politically appointed Hutcheson Medical Center board trustees held a lengthy meeting last week but didn't notify the media, breaking a protocol they've followed for the past several months.

Trustees of the Hospital Authority of Walker, Dade and Catoosa Counties, the public board that operates Hutcheson, met May 25 as a separate "private, not-for-profit" board - Hutcheson Medical Center Inc. - according to a hospital spokeswoman.

The hospital did not send notices to the Chattanooga Times Free Press or several North Georgia media outlets.

The Hospital Authority's bylaws say it must notify "local media" of regular meetings, said spokeswoman Haley Johnson, who confirmed that officials did not send a meeting notice last week. She said Chattanooga media aren't on the list of media to be notified about "regular board meetings."

It's difficult to define a "regular meeting" at Hutcheson since the board structure was reshuffled in April. Neither board has announced a new meeting schedule.

The Hospital Authority operates Hutcheson, a publicly funded hospital.

Hutcheson Medical Center Inc. comprises Hospital Authority trustees and their appointees. It leases the building from the Hospital Authority.

The same authority trustees and different appointees make up Hutcheson Health Enterprises Inc., parent to Hutcheson Medical Center and Hutcheson Medical Division, the hospital's for-profit sister company that operates medical offices and practices.

" ... [For] HMC, HMD and HHE, the media is not addressed," Johnson wrote in an email.

transparency?

Losing $1 million a month since late last year, Hutcheson recently laid off about 75 employees and entered into a management agreement with Erlanger Health System, which is drafting a strategic plan for the Fort Oglethorpe hospital.

Several public meetings about the management transition have been held. Hospital officials and board members have hinted at future layoffs, and they've emphasized an effort to be transparent in all their dealings.

"We're working on several things that I think will make great stories soon," authority attorney Don Oliver wrote in a Friday email.

Hospital Authority trustee Bill Chapin, who said he attended the meeting only for about 15 minutes because of a time conflict, said that besides making committee assignments, he didn't know what else went on.

"If I knew anything, I'd be happy to tell you," he said last week.

Erlanger Health System officials also have had little to say about the first days of the partnership.

The Chattanooga hospital continues to peck away at a short-term strategic plan that will take Hutcheson through the end of its fiscal year - September - and a long-term plan for beyond.

Last week, Erlanger President and CEO Jim Brexler said the work has progressed as far as two schematic diagrams detailing outlines of the plans.

Beyond preliminary timelines and schedules, neither goes into great detail.

Contact Chris Carroll at ccarroll@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6610.