AVH’s community mission must remain first | AspenTimes.com

AVH’s community mission must remain first

This is both an exciting and unnerving time for Aspen Valley Hospital. This vital community institution has spent an inordinate amount of time in the headlines lately as it experiences a series of major changes ” the closure of a midvalley indigent-care clinic, the departure of CEO Randy Middlebrook, a search for a possible new location (as opposed to a major expansion) and a potential affiliation with a major New York hospital.

Naturally, all this attention and all this movement have led to a fair amount of worry among both staff members and citizens.

We too fear the hospital board is at work on sweeping changes that could fundamentally alter AVH’s character and mission. However, we also know that three of these duly elected board members entered office with a mandate for change, and they’re hard at work to meet that expectation.

On one hand, the board is doing its job and trying to lead the hospital out of a financial crisis; on the other hand, the board is pushing the envelope, acting rapidly, acting aggressively and, frankly, scaring the hell out of people.

It’s important at this point to allow the board to do its job. Citizens elected these board members to fix some glaring problems at AVH and they’re plainly working overtime to do so. The jury’s still out on the debate between expansion or relocation, and the idea of affiliation with the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, but the board deserves the benefit of the doubt from the public as it does its work.

That said, some of the board’s recent moves give us pause. Taken together, the potential relocation of the hospital complex and the opening of negotiations with Hospital for Special Surgery smack of empire-building. And though board members have shown signs of improvement, they haven’t involved staff members or the community in decisions the way most publicly elected panels in this area try to do.

To their credit, board members are trying to get the hospital running like a business. But fundamentally AVH is a community hospital and a public trust, and its governing board should reflect that unique mission.

If affiliating with a New York medical center and becoming a “destination hospital” will help AVH survive financially, then those ideas deserve serious consideration. But such moves should not undermine AVH’s most basic purpose ” to serve the people of Aspen and Pitkin County.

First and foremost, the AVH board must keep in mind the community and the hospital’s mission to its constituents.