Should United Hospital District continue to operate as a district hospital? That is a question the board of directors wants an answer to.
At last Tuesday night's regular meeting, the board voted to form a task force to explore what would be the best way to govern the hospital and clinic based in Blue Earth.
"We want to look at how we currently operate as a district hospital and see if there is a different, better way to govern the hospital," board chairman Dennis Zitnak says.
Zitnak stressed that UHD would continue to operate as a locally-owned facility and UHD administrator Jeff Lang says they would continue to be a critical access hospital.
"Of the 151 hospitals in the state of Minnesota, only 11 continue to operate as district hospitals," Lang says. "Many have become private, non-profit hospitals, but there are also other hospital management structures."
Zitnak says there are probably pros and cons to all of the ways hospitals can be governed.
"If we stay the same as we are now, then so be it," Zitnak says. "But it is our responsibility to periodically study how we do things and see if there is a better way."
At Tuesday's meeting the board agreed to form a management task force to evaluate the governance structure for UHD. Plus, they charged their current Strategic Management Committee to make recommendations to the board as to the process the new task force should use in its study.
United Hospital District was formed in 1967 when area governmental bodies cities and townships agreed to form a district to operate an area hospital.
UHD operates as a governmental organization, with a board whose members are elected by the general public.
They also have the ability to fund both capital projects and general operating expenses for the hospital through taxes on property owners in the district.
However, UHD has only levied a tax once, in 1968, to fund the new hospital building.
That was a general obligation tax bond which was paid off in 1988, and no hospital tax has been levied on local taxpayers since that time.
Zitnak says the board needs to know if a different governance system will work better in areas such as access to care, health care reform regulations, alignment between the hospital and physicians and attracting talented and dedicated employees.
"Are we governed the right or best way?" he questions. "That is what we need to find out. Why are these other district hospitals changing their governance system?"
Zitnak wanted the Strategic Management Committee to develop a procedure and schedule for the new task force to follow and to present that plan at the August board meeting.
Other board members suggested that could be pushing them too much, as the next meeting was just three weeks away.
"Whatever we decide to do, our commitment to providing high quality care to area residents will remain our top priority," Zitnak says.