The Trios Health board may still hire an outside firm to help with management, but it changed course last week on how to go about it.
The public hospital district dropped a controversial hiring process, instead voting 5-1 to ask Quorum Health Resources to prepare a three-year management proposal. One board member abstained from voting.
The proposal is due to Trios’ CEO by June 1, with the board’s finance committee then taking a look.
The full seven-member board will discuss the proposal at the end of June.
The idea “was the consensus of the board, so I’m OK with it. We seemed to be more in agreement. There’s a path forward,” said Marv Kinney board president.
The board at its Thursday meeting was expected to discuss hiring one of two consulting firms — Quorum or Huron Healthcare — to work in the district for six months, helping reverse its financial struggles.
(The idea) was the consensus of the board, so I’m OK with it. We seemed to be more in agreement. There’s a path forward.
Marv Kinney, Trios Health president
In the last month or so, an ad hoc committee of three board members developed and sent out a request for proposals for consulting firms. The committee, appointed by Kinney and made up of board members Don Campbell, Kathy Davidson and Rick Reil, then narrowed the list of responding firms to Quorum and Huron and recommended they come to the full board to make pitches.
Those pitches happened in mid-April.
But there was contention over the ad hoc committee process, with three board members — Wanda Briggs, Mike McWhorter and Jim Mefford — saying the committee overstepped its authority by sending out the request for proposals and winnowing the field of firms. They also questioned whether the process violated state open meetings law.
“We did this ad hoc committee in good faith” and the process has been used by the district before, Kinney said during Thursday’s board meeting.
But the board minority asked for a legal opinion, and “the timing was good to ask for a check and balance to ensure we’re following the letter of the law,” Kinney said.
The attorney consulted by the district said the appointment of the committee and most of its work weren’t a problem. But he suggested that once a draft request for proposals was developed and firms identified, it would have been prudent for the committee to return that information to the full board, Kinney said during the meeting.
I believe the money spent for the original (six-month) plan would be better spent for a long-term solution and viability of the hospital. And the motion also gives us the opportunity to review this as a board and see if that’s the direction we want to go.
Mike McWhorter, Trios Health board
He said the board could do nothing with the information, it could restart the process or it could look to CEO Glen Marshall to review and make a recommendation about what step it should take.
Mefford proposed the board ask Quorum to pitch a longer-term plan. His motion authorized Marshall and the administrative team “to provide any financial or statistical data that (the company) requires to provide (Trios) with a three-year management proposal.”
Mefford said he likes Quorum the best because the company has more management experience.
Davidson cast the dissenting vote. She wanted more than one option in terms of companies and in length of time they’d spend in the district.
She also wanted a shorter timeline for bringing back and considering a proposal.
Campbell abstained without giving a reason and couldn’t be reached Friday.
Both Quorum and Huron have worked in the Tri-Cities before — Quorum with Kadlec Regional Medical Center and Huron with Trios Health.
McWhorter said he feels Mefford’s motion “gives us a great opportunity to work together as a board” and explore using a leading hospital management company.
“I believe the money spent for the original (six-month) plan would be better spent for a long-term solution and viability of the hospital. And the motion also gives us the opportunity to review this as a board and see if that’s the direction we want to go,” he said during the meeting.
Also Thursday, Kinney raised the idea of hiring a law firm, like many other public boards have, to advise the board during meetings and on procedures. The board asked staff to come back with more information.