BRHS future at hand

Published 1:13 am Thursday, August 25, 2011

Three boards slated to shape hospital’s future

Three boards take votes today, votes that will shape the future of health care in Beaufort County.

Those votes by the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners and the two boards that oversee the operations of the local hospital and its affiliated medical practices have historic implications for health care in the county. The Beaufort Regional Health System Board of Commissioners and the Beaufort County Hospital Association Board of Trustees are scheduled to meet today, beginning at noon, to vote on the proposed lease/purchase deal offered by University Health Systems of Eastern Carolina to assume operation of Beaufort Regional Health System and its satellites. That meeting will be followed at 5 p.m. by a vote by the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners.

A final decision on the agreement is up to the county commissioners because the county owns the hospital buildings and buildings that comprise affiliated medical practices.

If all three boards approve the deal, UHS will take over management of BRHS on Sept. 1.

Some residents and members of the local medical community agree the question before the boards is likely one of the most important decisions in the county’s history.

It’s “probably at the very top” of issues that have ever faced Beaufort County, said Josh Tayloe, a retired obstetrician, in a recent interview.

Tayloe’s family has played a pivotal role in health care in much of the county’s history.

His ancestors opened a hospital in Washington in 1904, serving patients until the opening of Beaufort County Hospital, and his uncle, Dr. John Cotten Tayloe, was Beaufort County Hospital’s first chief of staff.
“I don’t think there’s anything bigger than this,” said Derik Davis. “Health care in this community is a huge issue and you can see that based on what’s happened over the last few months.”

Davis was one of the leaders of a group of local residents credited by many people, including Dave McRae, UHS’s chief executive officer, with turning the tide of debate in favor of UHS.

Like Davis, others interviewed said they were glad the issue of health care in the community — the subject of much debate for the past 1 1/2 years — will be resolved today.

Dr. Thomas Ruffalo, a Washington-based gastroenterologist, said he appreciates the support the community has shown the local medical staff throughout the debate.

“As we approach this historic venture with UHS, I am thankful for the support the community has provided to its medical staff, physicians and hospital,” he said.

Longtime Washington resident Fran Rumley, who spearheaded an oral history project some years ago for the Friends of the Brown Library, said throughout its history Beaufort County Hospital has played a vital role in the community and issues affecting it have historic implications.

“When our present hospital was built, it became a cornerstone of this community,” she said. “Everyone was proud of the fact that we had such a wonderful medical community in a town the size of Washington.

“Being a Realtor in Washington for many years, being able to show a hospital the size of BCH to prospective newcomers, in more than one incident, was a decisive reason to move here,” she said.

All of those interviewed said they hoped the affiliation with UHS, if approved, will be perceived in years to come as good for the community.

“This is an historic decision that I hope will always be held in the people’s hearts to be the best decision,” said Davis. “I hope 50 years from now, people will look back and say this was the right decision.”

Rumley agreed.

“With the prospect of the future of our hospital and its relationship to UHS, I can only believe it will play an even larger part in drawing future homeowners to Beaufort County,” she said. “This in turn will start our community back on the road to recovery.”