Different hospital perspective offered

I read the letter from Carolyn Fowler that was recently published relative to the governance change that is being studied at the New River Medical Center in Monticello. I am a member of the committee that has studied the pros and cons of this action over the past 16 months. I am not a board member but I have attended every educational session without fail along with a number of other presentations made about particular facets of this action.

When I started, I had no idea about the details of the alternatives and thus was certainly neutral. I wanted to see a quality hospital continue here in Monticello along with local control and decision-making. I ended up feeling in order to survive in today’s health industry a change to a nonprofit was the only way to ensure the future of this location as a full service hospital with local control.

All our meetings were open to the public. I do not recall Ms. Fowler attending any of them so that must be the rationale for the errors in her letter. She has received some information that must be second-hand at best and needs to be clarified. I want to point out some of the misunderstandings:

1. Board authority. The current board will simply change hats and become the nonprofit board as well as continue as the district board. The same people will be the new board. Some of these same people will be the Nominating Committee to see who they want as additional members. Further, three district board members elected by the citizens will be fully participating members of the nonprofit board in all on-going control. They will be privy to anything and everything relative to the hospital and are the taxpayers representatives in all hospital matters.

2. The organizational papers dictate how the new board will be structured. ALL non-profit boards are appointed. If they were elected, who would be the voters? If you look at the non-profit boards at Allina, Abbott Northwestern, Mercy, St. Cloud Hospital, etc., no one can suggest they are a “good-ol-boys” club. They are each experts in a particular area who were chosen to bring this to the organization. Pay is not part of the process.

These people are donating their time and talents and this will be incorporated into the nonprofit governance at New River if the change is made.

3. Fowler suggests selling the hospital to make a profit to be distributed to each district. Are there examples of hospitals that have been sold in the last 10 years? Any that have taken place were for a small token of their actual value. There is usually an “in kind” remuneration which simply means the hospital will continue to educate the public on health matters and keep caring for various charity cases as they appear. The expectation is that a buyer would most likely look at the various departments as a cost center and see what can be eliminated. This would certainly jeopardize the future of having a quality hospital here in Monticello.

4. She suggests we are “giving away what is making a profit.” The health care industry is in such turmoil relative to costs, aging population, Medicare expenses etc. Who can see and predict the future? As they say when you are investing: “Past performance does not guarantee future results”!

5. There is no “co-signing” that passes responsibility to the district.

Yes, there are $17 million in current bonds that are guaranteed by the taxpayers. The legal requirements are that these bonds are to be paid by the hospital revenue before most other obligations they might have. But all future loans or bonds would be the obligation of the nonprofit, not the districts.

Her last point about “partnering” is what this is all about. The current governance must operate under the open meeting laws. In order to align with another organization they need to negotiate in private without competing hospitals listening in on the discussions. That is why this change in governance is important. The hospital may very well align but do this without passing ownership and control to someone outside the area. North Memorial has an under-utilized hospital in Maple Grove and would love to “own” the hospital in Monticello and simply move surgery, ER, ambulance service to that location and have our local hospital as a staging area.

Most all of the area citizens do not want that to happen. We are diligently working to keep the hospital financially sound and operating at a high quality level. I and others have spent numerous hours reading and studying this decision. It is certainly not taken lightly or quickly. This change will allow the hospital to be organized and managed such that it can handle the uncharted waters of the future health care needs of our citizens. I strongly support this change in governance. — Bob Esse, Silver Creek Township