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Rx for St. Joe 

Editor:

While I wouldn’t have used the term “fed-up,” I am extremely disappointed by the conduct of the Board of Trustees of St. Joseph Hospital (“Medical Chief Grief,” Jan. 1)

During the 12 years that I have been a member of the medical staff, the St. Joseph’s board has rarely played a significant role in shaping the future of health care in Humboldt. Without reciting a list of missteps, the essential bankruptcy of the local hospital two years ago is evidence enough of the inability of the board, as currently structured, to provide adequate oversight. Recent events, however, brought the board to a new low. 

My displeasure with the conduct of the board should not be confused with the general optimism with which I view the outlook for health care in Humboldt, and St. Joseph in particular. While it is well known that I disagree with our CEO, Joe Mark, on some issues, he is unquestionably the most capable chief executive that St. Joseph has had here. I also believe, as does Mr. Mark, that we need to more closely align the interests of the hospital, the medical staff and the community. 

Aligning those interests isn’t always as simple as it may seem. Physicians, for instance, are not directly employed by the hospital. Separating medical decisions within the hospital from business decisions has tangible benefits but can also cause friction when competing interests collide. Similarly, the community’s desire for affordable health care often conflicts with the hospital’s need for revenue. 

My experience over the last year as chief of the medical staff gave me some optimism that the physicians and hospital have the potential to work cooperatively to bridge this gap. Successfully doing so will allow us to build on the substantial quality that already exists within our medical community while supporting both the hospital’s and the community’s well being.

The manner in which the relationship between the physicians and the hospital changes will be vital to the long-term health of our community. While the board isn’t structured to guide this process, it isn’t asking too much to expect them to conduct themselves ethically while participating. Over the past few years, I have witnessed numerous failings in this regard, and some have come back to harm the hospital. Recently, an attempt was made at the board level to report anonymous allegations of vague and therefore unverifiable quality concerns. If this raises questions in your mind, you are not alone. It did with me as well. However, while anonymous, unverifiable information may be given credence in some dark corners of the globe, it won’t have credence on any board of which I will be a part. 

If my resignation focuses a spotlight on the board, encouraging them to make more of an effort to govern ethically, it will have served a useful purpose. An easy start would be to hold themselves to the same standard as a group that they do, for the most part, individually. 

David Ploss, Eureka

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