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Commissioners create board to oversee University Medical Center


Sam Morris / File photo

University Medical Center is Clark County's only publicly funded hospital.

Updated Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013 | 9:25 p.m.

University Medical Center will be getting more hands-on attention from a new oversight board starting next year, after Clark County commissioners voted today to relinquish much of their authority over the public hospital.

The issue: Commissioners considered an ordinance creating a new independent governing board for UMC to oversee most of the hospital’s operations and strategy.

The vote: Approved 6 to 1, with Commissioner Tom Collins in opposition.

What it means: A new board of community members will take responsibility for UMC, with the county commission, which has final authority over the hospital, retaining only a few select powers.

Recruitment for the board, which will have between five and nine members, is still underway, and a slate of candidates is expected to be presented to commissioners for approval in December. The board is expected to begin meeting early next year and take on its full duties beginning in July, giving new members about six months to get up to speed.

Tuesday’s decision brings an end to nearly a year of contentious debate among commissioners about the best way to manage the financially troubled hospital.

Officials say the dedicated board will have more time to focus on hospital-specific issues, a challenge for commissioners, who already have responsibility for everything from the airport to the jail to transportation.

Some critics expressed concern that the new governing board doesn’t address the fundamental issues that have led to annual losses at the hospital in the tens of millions of dollars.

Commissioners spent much of Tuesday’s meeting fine-tuning the language in the ordinance creating the board.

Members of the Service Employees International Union of Nevada specifically raised concerns that the ordinance as worded would give the new independent board control of collective bargaining negotiations. Commissioners struck that language from the ordinance, leaving the current system, which is led by the hospital’s CEO Brian Brannman, in place.

Martin Bassic, SEIU Nevada president, questioned whether the new board was really needed and worried about a lack of transparency.

“It’s a public hospital. We’re concerned about the public having a voice and the accountability of an appointed board,” he said.

Among the powers delegated by the commission to the new board are the approval of hospital contracts up to $5 million, oversight of physician recruitment, developing personnel policies and setting long-term strategies and goals.

The commission will still have authority over the independent board and will retain responsibility for the approval of final budgets, issuing debt and authorizing new building construction or leases.

Commissioners previously established an independent advisory board for UMC in 2010, but that effort was scrapped less than two years later due to ineffectiveness.

Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani said the newly formed board has a better chance at success because it will have more authority over the hospital.

“It’s better crafted than what we did with initial resolution with the initial advisory board. Brian and his staff were stuck still having to come to us for everything. It just didn’t make sense if you’re trying to be more efficient.”

Collins was the lone vote in opposition Tuesday. Collins said he’s supportive of the effort to create the new board, but he wanted the decision to be held two weeks so that changes discussed during the meeting could be presented in writing. Instead, the ordinance was amended with several tweaks and clarifications orally before being approved.

“A lot of ideas were expressed today that weren’t in writing. Why not take two weeks and bring it back with the various changes?” he asked. “I felt like we needed it to see it in writing for transparency.”

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