EDITORIAL | WhidbeyHealth CEO’s goals should be clear

The WhidbeyHealth hospital board handed hospital CEO Geri Forbes a $70,000 bonus, which was on top of her regular salary of $279,000.

Board members made it clear that they feel Forbes is doing a great job. They said her bonus was dependent on whether she met certain goals, nearly all of which she accomplished. The goals she didn’t quite meet were beyond her control, they said.

Oddly, the board members didn’t speak publicly about what the goals are or how exactly Forbes earned the bonus; apparently that happened behind closed doors. A board member declined to provide a reporter with any explanation of what the goals entail.

As a result, we offer Forbes some goals for this next year.

* Do a better job of helping people in mental health crises. It’s alarming that the community’s hospital isn’t equipped to help people who are suffering from this particular ailment. Law enforcement and social-service advocates have long been concerned about this hole in service. The hospital is beginning a pilot project this week that will offer long-distance consultation with a psychiatrist at the Freeland clinic; it’s a good first step.

* Find a way to increase retention of employees. About 10 percent or more of jobs at WhidbeyHealth, which includes the hospital and seven clinics on the island, are unfilled at any one time. That isn’t necessarily high for healthcare systems — especially on an island — but turnover is costly and disruptive. The key is building morale; it’s a concern when members of one department speak at a board meeting about perceived management problems.

* Increase transparency. The hospital board had a series of town-hall-style meeting, which was a great way to address community questions directly. Yet the administration and board continues its secretive ways, to their own detriment.

Forbes is doing a good job. That’s a good thing. By not being as open as possible about her goals and her accomplishments, the board only feeds distrust and leaves questions unanswered.

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