Opinion

Whidbey General Hospital creates its own problems | Editorial

There is no doubt that Whidbey General Hospital has public relations problems, but that is not the fault of this or any other newspaper, as insinuated in the meeting Monday where the public hospital’s board decided to put a second try at a construction bond election on hold.

The hospital hasn’t needed the help of any newspaper in creating its public relations problems. The governing, elected board is afraid of the public. Last month it brought in police officers when it was feared two critics would speak. Last Monday, hospital employees who are being outsourced had to wait to the end of the meeting, after a lengthy closed-door session, to speak since they hadn’t signed up for the public comment period at the beginning of the meeting.

Public comments may be tough to hear sometimes, but it’s the board’s job to listen and make it as easy as possible for the public to give input.

Hospital employees are hard workers and many are respected and loved in the community. But the board has managed its job poorly. One long-time CEO was fired, then the hiring process to replace him didn’t go well. The top choice rejected the job after investigating the situation. Finally the job was filled in-house but, incredibly, at $230,000 a year, roughly 50 percent more than what the average CEOs at similar “critical access” hospitals make.

In terms of publicity, the hospital is its own worst enemy. Press releases are poorly written, phone calls are not returned, requests for public information are stalled or denied even if that requires dancing around state law.

The CEO is presently undergoing a routine performance evaluation, done of course behind closed doors. He has the right to a public evaluation and could heal many wounds by doing so. Of course, that will never happen.

Once it’s done with reviewing the work of the CEO, who has created and inherited many problems with employee groups, the board should analyze its public relations department and, finally, analyze itself. Why isn’t the elected board of directors taking charge of Whidbey General Hospital? Why do they put up with anyone offending the public or not helping the press inform the public?

Yes, Whidbey General Hospital has its problems — entirely of its own making. They’d better be fixed before voters are asked for any more tax money.

 

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