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October 1, 2014

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Commissioners OK plan to consider change of UMC governance

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LAS VEGAS SUN FILE

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

In a special meeting called Tuesday afternoon, the Clark County Commission had only one item to discuss: the future of University Medical Center’s governance structure.

The issue: The commission was considering whether to approve a bill draft resolution giving the commissioners the power to establish an independent board of directors to oversee UMC.

The vote: Approved 4-3 with minor amendments. Commissioners Tom Collins, Lawrence Weekly and Chris Giunchigliani opposed the measure.

What it means:

The Legislature will consider the bill when it convenes its session next month. If passed, it would allow the County Commission to explore different governance structures for the hospital, which continues to deal with large budget deficits. County commissioners now serve as UMC’s board of trustees, overseeing the hospital’s operation.

If the county decides to change the governance structure, it would most likely turn UMC into a county subsidiary corporation, which would still report to and receive funding from the county. Despite concerns voiced by numerous UMC employees and SEIU union members in the audience Tuesday, county commissioners and staff said creating the subsidiary corporation would not affect employees or the benefits they receive.

The commissioners all agreed that action was needed to shore up the finances of the troubled hospital, but disagreed on what was appropriate. Those voting in favor of the bill draft request Tuesday said an independent board could devote more time and attention to the needs of UMC and could help find new solutions to the problems facing the hospital.

“No one can deny there’s a revenue shortfall at UMC. We need more money to adequately compete and function properly,” Commissioner Steve Sisolak said. “I think that we need to explore every single option that’s available for the well-being of UMC and I think the governance structure is one of them. The only other solution we have is a very significant tax increase on every resident in Clark County.”

Commissioner Mary Beth Scow said turning over control to the independent board would create separation between the hospital and the county government, possibly enticing more philanthropic donations to the hospital.

“People feel that they are already giving to UMC through their property taxes,” she said. “Most philanthropists say I don’t want to donate to government. Donating to UMC is like donating to a government entity.”

Commissioner Giunchigliani, who opposed the legislative request, said discussions about changing the governance structure at UMC distract from the real problem — what to do about the hospital’s financial situation.

“I’m not sure what the whole purpose of this is,” she said. "We’ve diverted our discussions and our debates and our time by not looking at the financing.”

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