LANCASTER — Four months after it dissolved the nonprofit corporation that was to operate Antelope Valley Hospital with an expanded governing board including community members, the Antelope Valley Healthcare District directors are still searching for a means of including greater community input to its deliberations.
The intent of the nonprofit plan, approved by voters in November 2017, was to provide greater stability for the hospital governance by turning management of the hospital over to a nonprofit corporation with a nine-member governing Board. This Board was to include the five elected directors of the healthcare district, three appointed community members and the hospital chief executive officer. This structure was intended to provide benefits of operating the hospital as a nonprofit entity, with greater stability through a larger Board directing it.
As the transfer process progressed over the past year, it became clear that there were a number of unanticipated issues complicating and adding substantial expense to the move, causing the Board to first decide to delay the transfer before determining it was in the best interest of the institution to stop it altogether.
However, the Board has since continued to look for ways to continue the spirit of the plan’s expanded Board in some form.
“We need to get the process started,” Director Kristina Hong said during the Board’s regular meeting Wednesday.
The hospital had also previously had an advisory committee to the board that was made of community members, but it had also been dissolved some time ago.
Director Dr. Abdallah Farrukh suggested an appointed advisory committee consisting of individuals with expertise in areas in which the board needs help, including technology and data analysis, finance, human resources and public relations. These members would be vetted through an interview process looking at those specific needs, he said.
“I think starting with five individuals that are highly qualified,” he said, then adding community members at large.
Director Dr. Phil Tuso also thought the committee should include community leaders in tough with the local needs, including the homeless population. This area had been addressed in the nonprofit board with the appointment of Grace Resource Center Executive Director Steve Baker.
Hong felt a seven-member committee with at-large members would help address the need to ensure the entity represents the entire district and does not focus exclusively on the cities of Lancaster and Palmdale for membership.
Farrukh also said he would like to see a representative on the committee from the area’s younger population, as well.
Director Dr. Don Parazo did not agree that the committee should necessarily seek out expertise that he felt should be found in the hospital’s own ranks instead.
He noted that the Board had previously extensively vetted a large number of applicants for the earlier nonprofit corporation board, tapping community leaders for their views.
“Our strategy was to have people who were not connected with the hospital to give us a different point of view,” he said.
Parazo suggested revisiting those vetted before, rather than starting over completely.
As a means of ensuring the committee remains productive, it can be tasked with specific projects to address and advise the board about means of addressing them, rather than simply have a broad advisory mandate.
Resident Michael Rives suggested a variation of this, with community members in working groups to address specific topics, instead of a standing advisory committee.
A subcommittee of Tuso and Board President Mateo Olivarez was tasked with creating a proposal for the advisory committee and bringing it back to the entire Board for consideration.