Stevens Hospital board members Tuesday night invited the public to speak out on whether the current three-member publicly elected board should be expanded to five or seven members.
But a consultant leading the meeting wanted to begin the discussion about what the community’s health care needs are and how the Edmonds Hospital can fulfill them.
This led to a debate among some of the 30 people who attended the public hearing about its purpose: Was it to discuss the hospital’s mission or how many elected board members should oversee the operations of the taxpayer-supported hospital?
Finally, board President Fred Langer spoke up. “There’s an air of tension in the room that is really unnecessary,” he said.
All three commissioners agree that the board has to be modified, Langer said. “The question is whether it’s five or seven, or go to five and then go to seven,” Langer said. “We need to calm down a little bit.”
Among the issues listed by the public: keeping Stevens an independent community hospital, improving the quality of care and improving its image.
“Financial viability,” said Charles Day, a former candidate for the hospital board. “If you don’t have money, you won’t have a hospital.”
Longtime Mountlake Terrace City Council member Pat McMahan said if the issue of how many members are on the hospital board isn’t decided by the first of the year, he would begin a petition drive to create a seven-member board.
Former Brier Mayor Wayne Kaske said he supported five members, but “will take seven.”
Bob Brown of Lynnwood said he too would like to see a seven-member board.
Hospital attorney Brad Berg said the board could be expanded by a resolution of the current hospital board, or by a petition signed by 10 percent of residents living in the hospital’s taxing district.
The district includes Edmonds, Lynnwood, Mountlake Terrace, Brier and adjacent unincorporated areas of the county.
The current board would have to act by next month to get the issue on the November general election ballot, Berg said.
Langer said he expects a proposal to expand the board to be discussed at its regular meeting next week, and it likely will be on November’s ballot.
If voters approve a five-member board, current board members would select two additional board members to serve until the November 2005 general election.
Reporter Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or email@example.com.