Hospital debate leads to sparks

Published 10:29 am Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Contributing Writer

A discussion Monday night of the future of health care in Beaufort County once again led to heated debate at the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners meeting.
After one commissioner said two of his fellow board members “have subverted the process” and damaged negotiations by the Beaufort Regional Health System with its four potential suitors, board Chairman Jerry Langley, once again, called for cooler heads to prevail.
A vote that would have required commissioners Al Klemm and Jay McRoy to recuse themselves from voting on the future of BRHS because they had already endorsed an agreement with University Health Systems of Eastern Carolina failed when five commissioners voted against it.
Commissioners Hood Richardson and Stan Deatherage voted in favor of the motion.
The vote came after Richardson said the decision by Klemm and McRoy to endorse the UHS proposal was premature.
Klemm and McRoy countered that they had done their own evaluations of the proposals before the BRHS negotiating committee and reached their own conclusions.
Richardson said that Klemm and McRoy are among those in the community who have “done a lot of damage to the negotiations” by prematurely endorsing one of the BRHS’s four suitors.
Deatherage agreed, saying, “You are subverting the good will of Beaufort County. That damages the whole process.”
The commissioners’ discussion comes as a four-member negotiating committee prepares to enter a second round of talks with the health system’s four potential partners.
The committee is comprised of the Beaufort Regional Health System Board of Commissioners executive committee — Chairwoman Alice Mills Sadler, Vice Chairwoman Brenda Peacock and Secretary Hood Richardson — and BRHS board member Suzanne Gray.
Brim Healthcare of Brentwood, Tenn., Community Health Systems of Franklin, Tenn., LHP Hospital Group of Plano, Texas, and Greenville-based University Health Systems of Eastern North Carolina have been asked to continue talks with BRHS.
The BRHS board at its Nov. 18 meeting asked the four to respond to questions and counteroffers within 10 business days, after which time a second round of negotiations is scheduled to begin, Sadler told the Washington Daily News after that meeting.
The BRHS board will make its recommendations concerning the proposals to the county commissioners, who will ultimately decide the fate of the local health system.
Meanwhile, Langley on Monday asked the commissioners to avoid statements that would taint the process.
He told the commissioners to “allow the hospital commissioners to do their work” and “make a good, conscious decision for the people of Beaufort County.
Langley said January would be a “reasonable time frame to get a recommendation” from the BRHS board.