Still calling for openness with affiliation

Jan. 27, 2013 @ 05:34 AM

Last week, The Daily Courier reported that Rutherford Regional Health System (RRHS) had jumped over a large hurdle with relation to its affiliation agreement with Mission Health.

The signing of a memorandum of understanding now allows the RRHS Board of Trustees the ability to negotiate the agreement to partner with Mission.

We can understand that this process is one of numerous complexities and requires a significant amount of time and energy on the part of the Board of Trustees as well as hospital management.

That being said, we do believe that openness and transparency is still required with this negotiation process.

Rutherford Hospital has long been considered "our" hospital, controlled and governed by hometown people.

We can certainly see that there will be tremendous benefits that will be accrued to the community as a result of whatever this partnership has in store. But we have to ask the lingering question: Will we lose control of our hospital in the process?

The affiliation has been billed as a partnership, but that term is very broad and not very definitive.

Will RRHS be an equal partner, a minority partner, or a partner in name only with little substance attached?

RRHS CEO Cindy Buck told The Daily Courier that the board will "act with a level of autonomy" and that "with RRHS there will be local control, but it is not absolute."

The memorandum indicated that the RRHS Board of Trustees will have a "long-term voice" in the direction of the hospital, but that is vague and, in some circles, not very reassuring.

There are a lot of questions surrounding this affiliation. For us, they include:

• Who will appoint members of the RRHS Board of Trustees?

• Who will have the final decision on the hiring and firing of RRHS management?

• Who will control the hospital's annual operating and capital improvement budgets?

• Will there be a transfer of ownership of RRHS physical and financial assets to Mission?

• Will the local board retain control over the credentialing and hiring of the medical staff?

• Will the hospital staff be employees of RRHS or Mission?

We are certain there are many other questions that are out there and the answers to those questions will go a long way to determine whether or not the proposed affiliation is going to be right for our community.

We believe that the people of Rutherford County deserve to know the answers to those questions before a partnership, of any kind, is finalized.

We would also insist that the public be informed of these questions in a timely fashion.

By Matthew Clark, for the Editorial Board


The Daily Courier Editorial Board consists of community members Jerry Brewer, Kyle Bingham, Tom Padgett, Dr. Shermaine Surratt and Cliff Strassenburg as well as Editor Matthew Clark