Erlanger bill passes Senate, heads to Gov. Haslam

Erlanger bill passes Senate, heads to Gov. Haslam

May 1st, 2012 by Andy Sher in News

An aerial image of the Erlanger in Chattanooga/Hamilton County

Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

NASHVILLE - A change to the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Hospital Authority Act is on its way to Gov. Bill Haslam for his consideration.

State senators took final action on the bill, which adds Erlanger Health System's medical chief of staff to the public hospital's board of trustees. The vote was 30-0.

The House approved the bill last week on a 96-0 vote.

"Obviously, Erlanger has been struggling financially," said Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga, the bill's Senate sponsor. "As a delegation, we want to ensure there is proper oversight and input from physicians. This is one temporary step toward a more permanent solution."

Local lawmakers originally had planned to add two new members to the board based on recommendations by the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society.

But Rep. JoAnne Favors, D-Chattanooga, a former Erlanger board member, raised concerns about nonstaff physicians being on the board.

In 2005, Erlanger had to pay $40 million to the U.S. Department of Justice amid allegations that hospital officials violated anti-kickback statutes by overpaying physicians and offering them improper incentives in exchange for hospital referrals. In its agreement, Erlanger denied the government's allegations.

Lawmakers say they intend to revisit the Erlanger board structure next year with a comprehensive overhaul intended to address financial problems at the hospital.