It looks like all the talk around town about canceling the lease got their attention. Amid building tension, the belated negotiations between bjc executives and members of the Boone Hospital Center Board of Trustees have started to bear fruit. bjc this week surprised us with a new offer that represents real progress even with its severest critic.
So what now? Two of the trustees have been on record to terminate the lease while the other three have been coy about how they feel. Will it be a photo finish?
Many of you have already read the editorials in the Columbia Daily Tribune, which have rather strongly advocated canceling the lease. The cbt took similar position recently though with a noticeably different tone, arguing that benefits accrue through affiliation with a large institution, such as bjc.
An ad in a Tribune almost a fortnight ago urged us citizens to lobby the three uncommitted trustees to cancel the lease. Paying for the ad — presumably; two names were at the bottom of the full-page spread — were a former county commissioner and a member of the Board of Curators at the University of Missouri, which owns and operates the competing University Hospital and Clinics.
Some of you may have also attended one or both of the recent public sessions designed to inform us about the hospital lease. At one forum, the crowd rose in a collective surge to affirm their desire to abrogate the agreement almost as if they were in the Roman Coliseum, joyous at the thought of dispatching some unfortunate soul to the lions.
Most worrisome to me have been whisperings that political pushing and tugging could enter the picture, potentially upsetting the orderly negotiating process as ancient hurts and affronts reappear among a sector of citizens calling for reinstatement of an antiquated operating paradigm that simply isn’t tenable anymore. A sample sore point: renaming the place Boone Hospital Center 18 years ago.
My own research and intuition tell me Boone County has no business operating this hospital. The Boone Hospital Center must remain affiliated with and managed by a larger, more metropolitan institution for a number of salient reasons. These range from having to deal with the increasing thicket of federal, state and local regulations — not to mention processing Medicare and Medicaid claims in a lawful manner — to maximizing buying power and seeking the other economies of scale, which are derived from the strength in numbers gained through the affiliation with an entity such as bjc.
These concessions by bjc are hopeful signs that will lead to the positive resolution of what has been a trying situation for everyone.
Obviously all the talk about canceling the lease grabbed bjc’s attention but now it’s time to move on. They’re at the table now and apparently seeing our side of the picture. I would foresee the trustees working out a temporary arrangement with bjc — let’s call it a “continuing resolution” — that would affirm the county’s interest in retaining this renowned St. Louis institution as the operating entity because it’s already in place. Then negotiations can proceed to draft the final agreement. A minor point most of haven’t considered: maintaining employee morale at the hospital, which is something most of us have been too busy to even think about. That’s why these latest progressive steps are so important.