EDITORIAL | Transparency efforts are the best medicine for Whidbey General Hospital

Officials at Whidbey General Hospital took an important step this week in healing its relationship with people in the community who are critical of a culture among administrators and elected board members that once was insular and opaque.

For the first time Monday, the hospital board’s meeting was videotaped and the administration plans to put it online. Now anyone with Internet access may see firsthand how elected officials are spending the community’s money and making decisions about the community’s healthcare.

Geri Forbes, the hospital’s relatively new CEO, promised to increase openness and transparency when she took the job.

And it appears she is following through with that promise.

In addition to starting the videotaping, Forbes and board members recently held a series of successful town-hall meetings to improve the conversation with the community. And more town-hall events are planned for the future.

Keith Mack, hospital marketing manager and spokesman, brings a welcome change of tone and professionalism to the job.

The hospital recently hosted a bed fair showing off for the public the kinds of high-tech beds the hospital planned on purchasing. Undoubtedly, officials would like to do more, but access to the campus is limited with the ongoing construction of the new hospital wing.

Hospital officials had a little misstep when they announced that the hospital and all its clinics will be renamed under the “WhidbeyHealth” umbrella.

It’s a good idea to remind people how far-reaching and vital the organization is to health care on the island.

Nevertheless, hospital officials should have sought input and made the name change a community decision, not something hurled at the citizens.

Nevertheless, the changes are healthy and a noticeable difference from the past.

Several years ago, the board reacted to criticism from a few members of the public by moving meetings to 7 a.m. on Mondays and firing the guy who audiotaped them.

The board’s agendas and meetings minutes were vague and uninformative.

Now that the meetings will be online, we urge people to take the time to watch them and learn how decisions are made. It may not be exciting viewing, but an engaged public is vital to a healthy community and democracy.

And that’s really the best medicine.