Opinion

SOUNDOFF: The choice is up to Dr. Zaveruha

The following “open letter” was distributed to the staff and volunteers at Whidbey General Hospital:

The campaign to fill my position on the Board has begun on a rather nasty note. For this I am truly sorry. I believe the following are real issues that need to be discussed and debated in an open and honest environment:

Finances.

Patients First.

The Strategic and Business Plans for 2004 and beyond.

Our hospital is a community resource that belongs to all citizens of Whidbey Island. We are thankful that some community members have been involved but many more must become involved in the issues.

I am concerned that with both candidates being part of the hospital family, friction in the hospital might occur as people “take sides.” For the hospital and the community to profit from the debate, the campaigns must be waged on the issues and not the personalities.

To help set the record straight, I offer the following in regard to the Board’s discussions with Dr. Z. This is our position relative to a possible conflict of interest between his current EMS Medical Program Director position and sitting as a Hospital Commissioner.

After learning of his decision to seek a seat on the Board, the Board instructed Administration to get a legal opinion from our hospital attorney. Our attorney, Mr. Brad Berg, is a leading authority on District Hospital Law.

The Board met in Executive Session to discuss the matter with Mr. Berg.

We asked Mr. Berg to summarize his findings in a letter to us and to draft a letter from us to Dr. Z. outlining the legal issues involved if he was elected.

Dr. Z. asked Mr. Rhine the day after the Executive Session to have the Board inform him of the results of our meeting with Mr. Berg. He also called me to request the same.

As soon as we received Mr. Berg’s report, Dr. Roger Case and I, on behalf of the whole Board, met with Dr. Z. in private to discuss the findings and to give him a written summary (“the letter”).

In part the letter said that if Dr. Z. were to be elected, the Board would have no choice but to issue a 120-day termination notice relative to his EMS contract.This was based on Mr. Berg’s opinion that there would be a conflict of interest relative to the EMS contract that could not be cured by Dr. Z. recusing (excusing) himself from certain Board decisions. The provisions for such a notice are contained in his contract and can be exercised by either party.

Neither the Board nor Administration made public that meeting or the letter. We thought it was a private decision that Dr. Z. would have to make. We believe that it was not up to the Board or anyone else to tell him what to do. It certainly is legal for Dr. Z. to run for the Board and no one challenges that fact. It is not, however, legal to create a conflict of interest that could jeopardize the legal decision- making power of the Board.

Despite the recent “Sound Off” and the News-Times editorial that is essentially where the matter now stands.

The Board has no plans to interfere with Dr. Z’s right to campaign and seek a Board seat. But, we have gone on record with him. He now knows that he can be a Hospital Commissioner (if he wins); or the EMS Medical Director; but that he cannot legally be both.

Much has been accomplished by all of us working as a team to solve our current financial problems. I believe we are well on our way to getting them behind us. Much yet needs to be done. It can only be done by focusing on the issues and solutions, and not on personalities. Please join me, and the rest of the Board, in that pursuit.

Peter R. Borden is president of the Whidbey General Hospital Board of Commissioners.

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