Editorial: In a time of change, hospital board needs to be open, transparent

  • Tuesday, March 19, 2019 12:31pm
  • Opinion

After a year of bad financial news and a week of rumors, WhidbeyHealth CEO Geri Forbes announced she will retire.

To calm community concerns about the direction of the hospital, the elected hospital commissioners — and those who were appointed — need to engage with the community and adopt a new spirit of openness.

A new round of town hall-style meetings would help, but this time it should be the elected officials who explain their plans, concerns and hopes. Information about the budget and facilities should be presented in straight-forward terms. Complaints should be aired honestly.

The commissioners should all answer questions from the hospital employees, citizens and the media. It’s a basic part of being an elected official.

There are plenty of questions about Forbes hanging out there that haven’t been answered. Is there a severance package? If she retires, there shouldn’t be one, but commissioners aren’t saying.

Alarmingly, a staff member at the hospital recently responded to a newspaper question directed at one of the commissioners. The staff member pointed to a board bylaw that states all reporter questions must go through the CEO or CFO.

Toby Nixon, a state expert in open government, said he thinks that such a rule is nothing short of insane.

“If someone stands for election,” he said, “they have a responsibility to be open and accessible to the public and willing to speak about the agency and their position on agency issues. It’s one thing to defer to the staff on technical issues, but quite another to be unwilling to speak on agency mission, vision, plans and policies.”

Elected officials are the ones making these vital decisions, or at least they are supposed to be. The bylaw goes against the basic tenets of democracy, the constitution and common sense.

Of course, such a policy is unenforceable and pretty meaningless, except in what it says about the board. It enforces the belief that these elected officials aren’t capable, don’t feel accountable and aren’t willing to address complaints directed against the leadership.

The hospital district’s success depends to a large extent on its reputation. A lot of great things are happening at the hospital — especially when it comes to the quality of doctors, nurses and other staff — but those things may go overlooked if people don’t trust the people in charge.

More in Opinion

Opinion: Lawmakers seeks to claw back secrecy on records

By The Herald Editorial Board The state Supreme Court ruleth; and the… Continue reading

Sound Off: Built to last and well worth a million bucks

Living in Central Whidbey, I have always thought that having all those… Continue reading

In our opinion: On Whidbey, best to stay home when it snows

There are a lot of people on Whidbey Island from the Midwest… Continue reading

Letter: Paper should provide list of votes

Editor, In Patrick Grubb’s Jan. 4 Sound Off opinion piece, Mr. Grubb,… Continue reading

It was a year of tragic events, celebrity sightings and animal hijinks

It was an interesting year on Whidbey Island, as it it every… Continue reading

In our opinion: Justices’ rebuke of lawmakers is democracy in action

The framers of the Constitution would be proud to see that the… Continue reading

In our opinion: Shop locally for better gifts, stronger communities

Christmas is a week away, but there’s still plenty of time for… Continue reading

In our opinion: Dealing with domestic violence is often complex

The most dangerous place for a woman is her home. Statistics on… Continue reading

In our opinion: Slow driving on island raises concerns, blood pressure

A peculiar quirk of some Whidbey Island drivers is to travel slightly… Continue reading

In our opinion: We should all make a big deal out of affordable housing

During a recent discussion about utility rate increases, Langley City Council member… Continue reading

In our opinion: Affordable housing should top legislative priorities

Elected officials across Whidbey Island are completing their wish lists for Olympia.… Continue reading