Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Dave Carey announced on Monday that he would create a task force to study the short and long-term future of Central Peninsula Hospital, including who will manage the entity and how.
But his proposal met with skepticism when he presented it at the meeting of the hospital service area board Monday evening.
His proposed 11-member group he's dubbed the "Health Care Task Force" is part of his attempt to strike up new conversations with the Central Peninsula General Hospital Inc. board after a Sept. 7 decision by the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly that curtailed discussion on the possible sale of the borough-owned hospital.
This summer the CPGH Inc. board, the nonprofit company that governs the hospital, recommended a joint venture partnership with the Texas-based for-profit LHP Hospital Group, saying it believed the 50/50 ownership and control arrangement was in the hospital's best financial interest.
Carey said the task force would focus chiefly on studying data collected by the hospital board related to governance and ownership and to examine the formation of a "Central Peninsula Health Care Commission."
The commission idea could be seen as controversial.
Carey suggested that if proposed and approved by voters, the commission could usurp the boards that already oversee the operations and management of the hospital, including the service area board and the hospital board.
"I would see the potential for a vote next October, if they propose, before the service area members to change the governance board to this health care commission," Carey said in an interview on Monday afternoon.
Carey said the task force had a one year life span set to begin in late October or early November and expire in October of 2011.
Carey formally introduced his idea to the Central Kenai Peninsula Hospital Service Area Board when he explained his idea to the them at their meeting held Monday evening at CPH. He said that the task force could just as well not propose anything.
Carey has said that he felt the public was excluded from the decision making process surrounding the future of the hospital's ownership.
He called for increased education of the public last month when he submitted a public letter to the CPGH Inc. board that effectively served as a stop work order on the sale of the hospital.
"I believe there's a great deal more education needed for service area residents before they can make a prudent decision on how healthcare can be delivered," he said.
Carey's proposal broadsided the majority of the seven-member service area board, who met his idea mostly with skepticism.
Service area board member Jim Golden called the whole task force into question saying: "I was under the impression that I represent a certain component of the general public and I think everybody here does as well, but what I'm hearing is that's going to go away."
Fellow board member Jane Stein said she didn't see what task force would accomplish.
"I guess I can't see that it's going to be profitable to do that kind of thing," she said. "In theory it sounds good, but when you break it down I don't think it will do more than we've done now."
Board member Margaret Gilman however, said she saw benefits in the creation of the group, specifically to represent different stakeholders.
According to Carey, the task force would consist of two members appointed by the assembly, two members appointed by the hospital board, two members by the service area board, two members appointed by the mayor and three members of the public who would volunteer and then be selected through a lottery process. There would be an additional two public alternates who would also be picked through the same lottery process.
"I see the advantage of the task force for members of these varying groups to express the view points of those individuals and go back to various stake holder groups," Gilman said, "And, it's strictly advisory."
CPH Chief Ryan Smith ridiculed Carey's proposal when it was presented to the service area board, specifically the experience a group like this would have in comparison to the already established boards.
"This idea of having public members appointed via lottery seems like just a ridiculous concept," he said.
He also refuted the mayor's claims that the public didn't have the opportunity to participate in the process, noting that the assembly's recent decision would have opened that opportunity up.
"The whole idea of the ordinance was to introduce an ordinance so that that dialog could have taken place," he said.
Smith also noted what he called the irony of the timing of the creation and eventual sunset of the task force, which would coincide with the mayoral election next year.
"It seems like political reindeer games," he said. "It further politicizes the hospital process."
Dante Petri can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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