Confused about the Hospital Boards?

When my wife and I moved back to Townsend in 2013 the Broadwater Health Center’s nursing home had just been shut down by the state and there was a lot of talk about the hospital – and a lot of misinformation. I heard all sorts of conflicting statements about what had happened and about the nature of the hospital.  I found it particularly confusing that the hospital seemed to have two governing boards.

A little over a year ago I was asked to fill a vacancy on the Hospital District Board of Trustees. I had only a vague idea of its purpose, but I agreed to serve. I then spent time learning about the District board, and that other governing entity, Townsend Health Systems, Inc.  I want to share what I learned and hopefully clarify how both the District Board and THS relate to our local county-owned hospital.

Hospital District Board

Under state law, hospital districts are granted broad authority to establish and operate hospitals. They can borrow money by issuing bonds or warrants and, subject to voter approval, can levy taxes. Those powers are like those of a county school district or fire district. The governing board members, or trustees, serve without pay. They are elected by voters who live within the district, unless appointed to fill a vacancy.

Current members of the Hospital District Board are Hugh van Swearingen, Vic Sample, Darlene Doig, Bob Davis and John Ingalls.

Clearly, hospitals need to be administered and operated by health-care professionals, not by publicly elected volunteers. For many years, the District Board has contracted with Townsend Health Systems, Inc. to handle the job. This is done by leasing our hospital building to THS.

The lease contract requires the Hospital District to maintain the hospital building and grounds. In return, THS provides medical services to our community.

Townsend Health Systems

Townsend Health Systems is a not-for-profit, membership-based corporation that has no shareholders and pays no dividends. Membership in the corporation is open to all Broadwater county residents aged 18 and over. To become a member, all you need do is sign up.

 We, the Broadwater County citizen-members of the corporation, elect those who serve on the THS Board of Directors. The THS board is responsible for overseeing hospital operations, including hiring and firing the hospital administrator. The administrator, with the board’s guidance, runs the hospital.

Running a hospital is a complicated business, tightly controlled by state and federal regulations and requiring an army of workers and highly skilled doctors and nurses. BHC has some 90 employees and an annual payroll of $3.2 million.

 

Current THS board members are Brad Campbell, John Nordwick, Bill Upthegrove, Marcia Bieber, Ron Salladay, Jorja Munns and Michelle Barstad. They serve without pay.  The administrator is Kyle Hopstad.

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