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Our view: Advice and consent

The Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees is seeking public input on three proposed sites for a new hospital.

We appreciate the board’s efforts to be open and transparent about the process of selecting the site of a new hospital. In light of recent events, it seems the prudent approach. But we’re not convinced that the advisory committee the board is putting together will solve anything and may only complicate matters.

The board has bent over backward in recent years trying to appease public demands for information. Board members have conducted surveys and held forums to gauge public opinion. However, such measures haven’t gotten the board any closer to getting a new hospital built.



That doesn’t mean we’re against involving the public in the decision-making process. Indeed, we think the public has played an important role in getting the board where it is today. Because of the concerns that have been voiced about expanding the current hospital at the Russell Street location, the board ultimately agreed to build elsewhere.

Now that all parties have agreed that the new hospital will be built away from Russell Street, the hospital is moving forward with the sale of the properties it purchased near the hospital. There’s a sense of resolution and progress.



But that could quickly dissipate. The board is asking for more input, especially from community members who may be affected by the location of a new hospital. It’s almost as if the board is trying to make amends for the way it handled the acquisition of property surrounding the hospital. Although the board made that decision in an open meeting, it touched off a firestorm of controversy when the public finally understood the implications.

Now the board seems gun-shy about pulling the trigger on a decision without consulting everyone. Complicating things is the board’s recent plan to acquire an MRI machine and office space from Northwest Health Specialists. The board negotiated the deal in secret, bound by the terms of a confidentiality agreement. When the deal became public, the board took a licking, even though it firmly believed the acquisition would be a no-risk way to improve the hospital’s bottom line.

A series of events has put the hospital in a no-win situation.

The board’s motives are questioned at every turn. Perhaps its members should recognize the futility of trying to please all the people all the time and just act on their own best judgments. After all, that’s what the final decision will boil down to. Whether the advisory committee acts in lockstep to recommend one location or bickers its way through the process, the board will end up making the decision on where to build.

By empaneling an advisory committee, board members should say up front they intend to accept the recommendations, otherwise they’re only opening themselves up for more criticism if they choose a different location based on their own expertise.

They are the experts.

They understand the hurdles of constructing a hospital and financing it.

They accepted appointments and agreed to act in the best interests of the taxpayers. After years of planning and researching construction costs, they’re the ones in the best position to assess the qualities of the three proposed sites.

Waiting for an advisory committee get up to speed on the hospital’s construction site needs and then rehash the pros and cons of each proposed location seems counterproductive.

It’s a good idea if the goal is to restore the public’s confidence in the board. But it could be another thorn in the side of board members if the process goes awry.


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