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City appoints hospital board members

The Demopolis City Council appointed two new members to the Tombigbee Healthcare Authority board of directors during its Thursday night meeting.

Allen Bishop and Thomas Moore will serve six-year terms on the nine-member board, which establishes policies, makes strategic decisions regarding the direction of the hospital, and oversees the organization’s activity.

Bishop and Moore replace Annie Braxton and Tom Perry. Both Braxton and Perry served on the board for 12 years.

The two new appointees join Charles Singleton, Jay Shows, Walter Davis, Rob Fleming, Dr. Judy Travis, James Grantham and Jan Holley on the board.

Mike Marshall, CEO of Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital, said he believes both Bishop and Moore bring a valuable skill set to the board, which he admits will be tasked with making difficult decisions that will effect the future of the hospital.

Marshall cited the board’s decisions in February to close the hospital’s labor and delivery unit as the type of difficult decisions board members are responsible for making.

“It’s not like a typical civic organization board, particularly now,” he said. “There are some hard decisions that have to be made. Some people believe that the administrators are the ones who make all the decisions, but that’s not the case. We put together recommendations, but the board actually has to make the call. That’s the hard one. It’s easy for me to put recommendations together. It was not easy for our board to approve the layoff plan and to close labor and delivery back in February.”

The Demopolis City Council had nominated Mary Jo Martin, Alex Braswell, Joyce Weiss and Moore for the council, but was later presented a list of nominees by the hospital board.

Mayor Mike Grayson said that in his time in office, this is the first time that the council has been given a list of nominees from the board to choose from.

“The board presented us a list of four names this year and told us we had to pick from those four,” he said. “In my six years this is the first time we’ve been told we had to pick from a list. It was an unusual situation.”

Marshall said it is actually fairly common. In 1982, Alabama enacted the Alabama Health Care Authorities Act, which gives the healthcare boards the option to submit the city or county with a list of suitable nominees to fill vacant positions on the board.

“By state law, healthcare authorities appoint themselves four and their body politic five,” Marshall said. “By state law the authority has the prerogative to give the city a list of names it has to choose from. Our board in years past has not done that. This particular time they made the decision to proceed with that, so we gave the city a slate of names.”

Grayson said ultimately the board and the city agreed to choose one nominee from the city’s list and one from the board’s list.

“It’s a very difficult time in healthcare management, so rather than drag this thing out, we decided to do what we had to do to get some people on the board that can hopefully help turn the ship around,” Grayson said.

Grayson said it’s crucial the community have a viable hospital.

“We need the hospital here,” he said. “We can’t recruit industry without it, and we need it for the overall quality of life for our citizens.”

And Grayson said he could imagine a scenario where the hospital closes.

“I’ve heard from several board members who have said, ‘Look, we’ve got to make several tough decisions just to keep the hospital going.’ Now the implication is that if they are not able to make these decisions then the hospital could conceivably close,” he said.

Marshall has also heard the talk of the hospital closing. He said he doesn’t foresee that happening, but that it will take the community’s support to help the hospital survive during a challenging time.

“For a hospital to make it, it has to have the total and complete support of the board, the medical staff and most importantly the community,” Marshall said. “If you don’t have all three of those it’s just a matter of time. You will go away.”