CPH task force evolves

Posted: Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Borough Mayor Dave Carey has compromised with two Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly members on the health care task force idea.

Instead of the mayor's proposed 11-member body that called for broad exploration of the future of health care on the Kenai Peninsula, the new plan calls for an eight-member board that will vet the original six governance structure options considered by the hospital's governing board.

Carey, Charlie Pierce, of Sterling, and Gary Knopp, of Kalifornsky, will co-sponsor a proposal at the assembly's Oct. 26 meeting that will ask the assembly to approve the task force, the mayor announced Tuesday.

The collaboration between assembly members and the mayor represents a change in the assembly's attitude, as members of the body previously expressed reluctance toward participating in the mayor's task force as it was initially proposed.

Knopp was one such reluctant member.

"There was a lot of work done by the (hospital's) operating board, and I thought that their options should be vetted thoroughly, and the mayor's task force wasn't getting the support he needed," Knopp said. "And I didn't support it."

Carey said officially involving the assembly will be beneficial.

"My sense is that the assembly will be much more comfortable with this," Carey said. "I don't have any difficulty with it being an assembly task force. What I feel is that this discussion couldn't stop, so I started off with a task force. I feel the assembly is picking up exactly in the direction that I want to go in."

Central Peninsula General Hospital Inc., the nonprofit that governs the hospital, said it would follow the assembly's lead on any task force.

The eight-member group would be comprised of two hospital service area representatives, two hospital board representatives, two assembly representatives and two public representatives chosen by the mayor. The new plan cuts one public member and two mayor's office representatives from Carey's initial proposal.

The group would work for however long it needed to arrive at its recommendation for a hospital ownership and governance model at Central Peninsula Hospital, according to Carey, who estimates the process taking approximately six months. The task force could also recommend making no ownership and governance changes.

CPGH Inc. spent the spring and summer going through a similar process before making its ownership and governance recommendation to the assembly on Sept. 7.

With its first opportunity, the assembly killed an ordinance that would have allowed CPGH Inc. to sign a letter of intent to partner with a for-profit firm, per CPGH Inc.'s recommendation.

The CPGH Inc. board spent more than $500,000 collecting information, and eventually chose a whole hospital joint venture because it believed that model was in the hospital's best financial interest. The options, which will come back before the eight-member task force if the assembly approves its creation, ranged from doing nothing to selling CPH and its assets.

Knopp said it was limiting to put CPGH Inc. in charge of the ownership and governance recommendation, and he believes this new task force allows the right people to sort through the voluminous information that CPGH Inc. gathered.

"It was time for the assembly and the administration cohesively to take charge of it. The hospital had done the work but at some point they brought us the recommendation and, unfortunately, we didn't support the recommendation, and I think we didn't support it because we hadn't vetted all the other options," Knopp said.

Pierce said the task force's recommendation should be more in line with public opinion because it will be a more inclusive process.

"Essentially this is more of an independent view with a number of individuals that are less connected, not involved in day-to-day operations of the hospital," Pierce said of the new board.

Carey said he is pleased with the assembly's willingness to compromise and believes the new task force proposal represents true collaboration.

"What we're presenting now is our final form," Carey said. "It's what we all agreed with."

Andrew Waite can be reached at andrew.waite@peninsulaclarion.com.

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