Borough, hospital at odds over secret decision-making

Posted: Wednesday, March 22, 2000

SOLDOTNA (AP) -- Kenai Peninsula Borough officials are getting increasingly worked up over secret decision-making by the non-profit group that runs Central Peninsula General Hospital.

The borough owns the hospital, and the Central Kenai Peninsula General Hospital Service Area raises about $1 million per year in property taxes to help support it.

A service-area board was created by the borough to assess existing central peninsula health care services and identify unmet needs. But members say their work has been hampered by poor relations with CPGH Inc., which has leased the hospital and operated it since 1997.

''The hospital historically has been what I'd call a closed system,'' board chairman Jim Clark said. ''We have made requests for various things and had our requests criticized, with those things we requested never forthcoming.''

But Bob Molloy, CPGH's attorney, said the critics are off-base.

''The borough does have access,'' he said. ''The borough can review any financial documents they want to review. There is no question about that.''

Diana Zirul, president of the CPGH board, said her board holds part of every meeting behind closed doors to set policy and discuss contracts and personnel issues. Molloy said part of every meeting is open to the public when the board deals with service area matters and items that require borough approval.

The service-area board wants to hire a consultant to assess existing health services and identify unmet needs. For that, in November it asked CPGH for copies of various plans, studies and other documents that guide CPGH's operations.

Zirul said the request was too broad, and she asked for clarification because the requested documents may contain proprietary information.

Earlier this month, the service-area board narrowed its request to a study done by a private contractor, the hospital's five-year plan for equipment purchases, and its master facility plan.

Clark said his board is willing to discuss sensitive material behind closed doors. He said CPGH has no justification to cloak everything in secrecy.

The contract with the borough says CPGH board meetings ''will be open to the public as provided in its articles and bylaws,'' according to Borough Attorney Colette Thompson.

The contract says, ''repeated or flagrant failures to conduct open meetings as provided in the articles and bylaws will be grounds for the borough to terminate this agreement.''

Molloy said the CPGH board will discuss the public access issue at its March 30 meeting.

Borough Mayor Dale Bagley said his administration has been working with CPGH to resolve the issue. He wouldn't say whether it threatens the corporation's contract.

''Whether we need to enforce the contract with CPGH Inc., that's something we need to decide,'' he said. ''That's something we're working on.''

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