A plan to determine the best way to operate United Hospital in Blue Earth and its clinics is moving forward.
On Tuesday, the hospital's 13 board of directors approved a task force charter outlining a nine-month study.
At issue is whether UHD continues as a governmental district organization with elected members or adopts another management model.
"I don't know of an organization that hasn't looked at its governing structure in the last 40 years," says board member Larry Anderson. "It just makes good sense to me."
Anderson is a member of the district's Strategic Management Committee that was in charge of developing guidelines for considering the different options.
Committee chairperson Brenda Baldwin presented the group's recommendations to the board, which includes a task force of up to 20 persons.
"A lot of work was accomplished in a short period of time," says UHD board chairman Dennis Zitnak.
Governing options to be evaluated with the current system include operating as an independent private nonprofit or a nonprofit hospital that is affiliated with a larger health system.
Among those conducting the study will be UHD's board members, Dr. Terry Cahill, two hospital employees and two to four residents.
Zitnak says radio and newspaper ads and "word-of-mouth" will be used to recruit persons interested in serving on the task force.
"We want to keep the community involved and informed with what is going on," he says.
The task force is hoping to complete its work by next April and have a recommendation for the board to vote on at its May meeting.
UHD administrator Jeff Lang says any decision made will focus on providing quality care and service, as well as meeting financial, growth and employee goals.
"Health care reform is a significant driver of this. We need to position ourselves to best deal with any changes in the future and still meet our mission," he says.
District officials are planning to hold informational sessions for the public at city and township meetings.
In addition, presentations will be conducted for service clubs and other gatherings.
"I think it's important to let the public know that no decision has been made," says Anderson. "This is strictly a study and really an open process. Maybe nothing will change."
In other business:
the search for a family physician and general surgeon continues.
Lang says a doctor from the East Coast with nearly five years experience and one beginning their third year of residency training recently made a visit.
An offer has been made to one of the candidates.
"We did a telephone interview today. We still have a good pool of physicians coming in and have seen some activity," Lang adds.
Also, the job opening for surgeon is expected to be targeted to some 7,500 currently practicing in the Midwest.
"It was sent out last week and we've already gotten one response," says Lang.
UHD for the second year in a row has been selected to receive an Excellence in Patient Care Award from the Studer Group.
The award is in the "Most Improved Doctor Communication" category and will be presented to officials during a health care conference held Oct. 10-12 in Nashville.