The Lewis County General Hospital is in serious financial trouble. It owes the county $6 million.
The county Board of Legislators has put the hospitals future in the hands of a recently created local development corporation, even though the state comptrollers office has questioned the reliance on the not-for-profit corporations to issue bonds to bypass limits on county borrowing. The LDC will assume ownership of the building and hospital assets that will be used to back bonds to finance operations. The corporation could eventually move the hospital toward privatization.
Creation of an off-budget agency to finance a fiscally strapped hospital is distressing. LDCs may not be in the best interest of the taxpayers who in the end will guarantee the debt the LDC incurs on the hospitals behalf.
Working its way out of the financial crisis will require hospital leaders to maintain public confidence in the ability of hospital administrators and medical staff to provide quality care. So it is troubling to hear that the board of managers and Lewis County legislators kept secret the concerns of hospital physicians in a majority vote of no-confidence in its chief executive officer.
The medical staff notified the hospital Board of Managers in July that there was an erosion of trust in the management and leadership skills of CEO Eric R. Burch. That did not become known until this week, when it was also learned that medical staff was upset with the unexpected firing a year ago of a surgeon who was later reinstated after a public outcry. The hospital board responded to the no-confidence vote with its own unanimous show of support for Mr. Burch.
The hospital will need the support of the people its serves to work its way out of debt. The no-confidence vote is not a good omen for the hospital.