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April 24, 2014

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Call for help overseeing UMC fails to drum up many volunteers

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LAS VEGAS SUN FILE

UMC, owned by Clark County, is the region’s only public hospital.

Tom Collins

Tom Collins

Steve Sisolak

Steve Sisolak

Finding volunteers to serve on a board overseeing much of the day-to-day operations of University Medical Center has not been easy.

Some Clark County commissioners, who have voted to give up most of their oversight of the taxpayer-funded hospital, say they understand why the public is reluctant to volunteer for such duty.

“Nobody wants to get on board what appears to be a sinking ship,” said Commissioner Steve Sisolak, a supporter of the advisory board.

“It’s the same reason the commission voted for the advisory board: Nobody wants to deal with it,” said Commissioner Tom Collins, adding that he opposed creating the board.

Frustrated with the seemingly endless problems at the hospital — including its massive debt, controversies over cutbacks in service and lawsuits over alleged mishandling of patients — commissioners, acting as UMC’s board of trustees, on June 16 approved creating a board to oversee how UMC spends money.

The commission will continue to oversee the hospital’s mission and capital budget.

For several weeks, county and UMC officials have tried to drum up applicants for the new board. The application deadline was initially July 1.

But on June 24, Kathy Silver, CEO of the public hospital, e-mailed commissioners and the county manager to ask for a 30-day extension.

She said only 14 people applied for the up to 11-seat board, and “(two or three) more are coming. ... But I feel that we need to expand the talent pool to avail ourselves of the best possible candidates.”

The county has refused to release the applicants’ names.

Each board member is to be paid $100 per meeting, and the application said members are likely to spend a minimum of 15 hours a month on board-related business.

Collins thinks that explains why there are not enough applicants. Not many are going to want to take on the task for $100 a meeting, he contends.

“We shouldn’t be passing the buck,” he said, adding that the county already employs experts, financial types and a staff of administrators at UMC.

Sisolak countered that the debate over the need for an advisory board is over.

“We, as trustees, clearly don’t have the expertise, or we wouldn’t be in the situation we’re in with the hospital.”

For example, commissioners shouldn’t be picking a new computer system for UMC, as they soon will be, Sisolak said.

“They’ll come in and we’ll rubber-stamp it because we really don’t know that much about this stuff. I’d rather have people who know hospitals and know how these things work making those kinds of decisions.”

Commission Chairman Rory Reid, who, like Sisolak, pushed for creation of the advisory board, said another advantage is that having appointees, instead of elected officials, making decisions will be “an immediate way to take politics out of UMC operations.”

“Decisions become politicized because we’ll have lobbyists hired by one group of doctors and lobbyists hired by another group trying to influence who can deliver cardiology services,” he added. “But it shouldn’t be a political decision, it should be based on who can do the best job.”

People interested in applying can go to accessclarkcounty.com and click on “Apply to Serve” to find an application.

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