Heated meeting of hospital board to air | AspenTimes.com

Heated meeting of hospital board to air

Naomi Havlen
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Videotape of a contentious meeting of the Aspen Valley Hospital board of directors will be aired next week on GrassRoots TV, channel 12.

The Aug. 12 meeting of the board was taped by the local station. But the three board members at the meeting agreed not to air the tapes immediately because of concerns that the tense discussion included some statements that might provoke lawsuits.

“The tapes were not withheld, they were reviewed,” said board member John Jellinek said. “And the decision has been made to release them.”

Board members say the tapes were stopped from airing so the entire board, including two members who were not at the meeting, could consider whether the statements made were “inflammatory at the least, slanderous at the most,” said board member Bob D’Alessio.

Jellinek said board members determined that there was no legal basis for lawsuits and “no reason the tapes shouldn’t be released.”

The issue discussed at the meeting centered around a dispute between three nurse-midwives at the Aspen Center for Women’s Health and Dr. Kenton Bruice, who left the center earlier this month to start his own practice.

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The two-hour meeting will be aired on Channel 12 on Monday at 7 p.m. and on Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. GrassRoots has filmed and aired two previous meetings of the board.

“It’s their right to show or not show the tape,” said Corby Anderson, station manager at GrassRoots.

The newest members on the board who were elected in May ? Jellinek, Elaine Gerson and John Sarpa ? all ran on a platforms that included making sure the board’s meetings are open to the public. Putting the meetings on GrassRoots TV was one method of ensuring the public’s involvement.

Even so, members said the statements may have caused trouble for the hospital or anyone else involved. Gerson and Sarpa, who did not attend the meeting, said they agreed with their colleagues’ decision.

“There is a responsibility on our part to not promulgate litigious situations,” Gerson said. “It’s our duty not to do that and our duty to the hospital to protect it from a legal standpoint.”

Both Gerson and Jellinek watched the tapes and made the decision with the rest of the board.

“I can understand where they were coming from,” Gerson said. “The meeting was very emotionally charged, and the air was pretty tense.”

But when she watched the tape, statements “didn’t seem as inflammatory as it was perceived” to the board members in the meeting, she said. Sarpa also said he understood the reasoning for holding onto the tapes before they went to the television station.

“I thought there were some pretty sensitive issues discussed, and I certainly understand the board’s initial reaction that perhaps some lines were crossed,” he said. “I appreciated their having us look at it before deciding what to do with it ultimately.”

Sarpa said in the future he would try to terminate potentially slanderous comments sooner into a discussion at a board meeting.

The board is expected to make a decision about the future practice of the three midwives at the hospital at its next board meeting. Jellinek said the issue should get “diffused very quickly.”

“I am hopeful that people will not turn this into an ugly, nasty public thing. I hope that we’ll come to some resolution to this before any further damage is done,” Gerson said. “What we want to do is make sure the patients in that practice are provided good quality care.”

[Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is nhavlen@aspentimes.com]