Our Voice: Kennewick hospital board must start working together

When construction of the new Trios Southridge Hospital was completed last summer, a sense of triumph accompanied the opening of its doors.

Now, amid employee layoffs and financial concerns, that sense of achievement has turned to anxiousness and doubt.

It is imperative the Kennewick Public Hospital District Board members work together to bring about stability for a community asset we cannot afford to lose.

The board was split on to how to handle the budget crunch facing the new hospital. Patient volumes are up, but so are costs for services, utilities and supplies. Glen Marshall, Trios CEO, said he has an improvement plan in place and is confident it will work.

Four hospital board members sided with Marshall and his plan to turn things around, which included cutting staff and shifting services. However, three others believed hospital finances are in such a crisis that the current strategies won’t work. They wanted to hire an outside consultant to fix the problem.

And the public is left with uncertainty.

We hope the budget improves and that there is good news ahead. However, if there is not, the board must find a way to set its differences aside and get the hospital back on track.

It didn’t help when Rick Reil, who is among those who wanted to hire outside help, used his Facebook page to encourage the public to attend the last meeting. He hoped a crowd would have some sway with the board.

“The truth is that our financial situation has greatly deteriorated ...,” he said in his post. “What has been wanting for some time at Trios is clear direction, planning and leadership.”

A crowd did show and many reportedly were turned away at the door because of a lack of space, but the tactic did not change any board members’ minds.

The hospital board has been split between two factions for some time and the level of animosity between the two sides has risen to a point where it is coloring, if not driving, board action.

As elected officials, hospital board members should disagree with one another from time to time. It’s healthy and can bring fresh perspectives.

But those disagreements should be conducted with a conciliatory goal, and that is not the vibe being presented currently by the hospital board.

Hospital board members knew building a new hospital would be a challenge. After voters did not approve a bond levy to finance its construction, they agreed to have a contractor build the new hospital in the Southridge area and lease it back to the district. It was a bold plan that has hit what we hope is just a hiccup.

We don’t know the right answer to the hospital’s financial troubles, but we do know it is difficult to believe the hospital is in good hands when there is such contention among board members.

This is a critical time for a critical public agency and it is time for the board to set aside their personal differences and take a long, serious look at the challenges that lie ahead.

If they don’t and the situation worsens, they will need to look no further than in the mirror to find where to lay blame.