Two new faces may stabilize hospital board

Whidbey General Hospital Commissioners, from the left, Grethe Cammermeyer, Gary Wallin, Roger Case, Paul Zaveruha and Anne Tarrant gather in Conference room A, where they hold their meetings. Cammermeyer and Tarrant took over two vacant positions Monday.   - Jenny Manning/Whidbey News-Times
Whidbey General Hospital Commissioners, from the left, Grethe Cammermeyer, Gary Wallin, Roger Case, Paul Zaveruha and Anne Tarrant gather in Conference room A, where they hold their meetings. Cammermeyer and Tarrant took over two vacant positions Monday.
— image credit: Jenny Manning/Whidbey News-Times

Cheers and applause erupted from a crowd of hospital staff members following the appointment of two new Whidbey General Hospital Board members, Grethe Cammermeyer and Anne Tarrant, who were sworn in Monday night.

They fill two vacant positions on the five-member board positions. Cammermeyer represents South Whidbey’s District 1, while Tarrant represents North Whidbey’s District 5.

The appointments come with hope that new faces on the board will help calm troubled feelings stirred up over the exit of former hospital CEO Scott Rhine. Rhine was forced out after announcing his retirement, a move which drew public criticism from a number of hospital staff members.

A five-member selection panel reviewed the applications of prospective board members for the two vacant board positions, said Roger Case, MD, the board president.

The selection panel consisted of Bert Speir, president of the Whidbey General Hospital Foundation; Paul Samuelson, mayor of Langley; Jim Campbell, an Oak Harbor councilman; Judy Moore, RN; and Douglas Langrock, MD for the north end applicants; and Dr. Sidney Sparks for the south end applicants.

Speir, who headed the community-based selection panel, said that he had a good experience with the selection process.

Applicants for the north end included Dave Johnson, a retired banker; Anne Tarrant, a planning consultant; and Marshall Goldberg, a semi-retired obstetrician and chairman of the Island County Democratic Party.

South end applicants included Hal Seligson, Grethe Cammermeyer, Michael Noblet, and William Lewis. A fifth applicant, Herb Weissblum, removed himself from the running, citing other well-qualified individuals seeking the position.

The board accepted the panel’s recommendation of Tarrant and Cammermeyer.

Cammermeyer hopes to bring a fresh mind the the hospital board.

“What they’ve been doing hasn’t worked,” she said, adding that she’s already knee-deep in the learning process. “Being new gives me the opportunity to ask silly questions.”

Cammermeyer hopes that her questions will provide answers on how to break down complex issues.

“Let’s be clear about what’s being said so we can act on it,” she said of the issues brought to the board.

Owner of the Saratoga View: Extended Family Adult Home, in Langley, Cammermeyer became familiar with Whidbey General Hospital when she renewed her nursing license. As part of the renewal requirement, she spent 145 hours working pro bono in the hospital, mostly on evening shifts in the medical surgery area.

“I noticed a peculiar absence of communication between nurses and doctors,” she said. And although she will not have a direct effect on doctor/nurse communication, Cammermeyer plans to facilitate communication among the board and hospital staff.

Tarrant, too, said that she has a lot of catching up to do on the board’s affairs, adding that she became interested in the position while doing nonprofit volunteer work in the community and reading about the hospital in local news coverage. Now that she’s on the board, Tarrant is ready to take on her news tasks.

“I’m used to hard work,” she said. “It won’t scare me off.”

Extra chairs were added just before the start of the meeting to accommodate the large crowd of hospital staff in attendance.

Pat Strong, an occupational therapist, started going to the meetings in October after the board controversially encouraged former hospital CEO Rhine to step down from his position. Rhine had previously announced his planned retirement for March 2009.

“It seems to be going in a better direction,” Strong said of the board’s most recent actions.

But she still plans on attending future meetings to keep an eye on things.

The board’s decision on Rhine, Commission Gary Wallin said at an Oct. 24 meeting, was to rid the board of its “lame duck appearance” by keeping a retiring hospital chief executive on staff. The board then appointed Chief Operating Officer Tom Tomasino as interim CEO.

The three-member board came under fire from hospital staff and community members for their decision, and slow response in filling two vacant board seats.

Holly Schoenknecht, formerly the South Whidbey representative, resigned in September and now lives in Seattle. Former north end representative Kristy Miller resigned in mid October, citing health reasons.

Tomasino expects the board to move forward from its tarnished record and create a better reputation for itself.

“Any time that you make a change to a group, you hope for positive change,” he said. “We hope for a positive movement forward.”

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