FAHC announces new board members

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(Host) Former gubernatorial candidate Con Hogan has taken on a new assignment as a trustee of Vermont’s largest hospital. The appointment of Hogan to the board of Fletcher Allen Health Care comes as the hospital tries to recover from a financial scandal. Trustees also named a Burlington pediatrician and two local business leaders to the hospital board.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Sound of gavel, Chairman Phillip Drumheller) “Good afternoon, I would like to welcome you all to this meeting, this eighth annual meeting of Fletcher Allen Health Care.”

(Dillon) Hospital officials say they need to regain the public’s trust after allegations that top executives misled regulators. Before the new trustees were named on Thursday, board Chairman Phillip Drumheller invited the public to comment. He got an earful.

Anne Donahue of Northfield recited a litany of missed warnings and failed opportunities to reign in hospital managers. She says she and other critics were ignored while the hospital fought regulators all the way to the state Supreme Court:

(Donohue) “These and many more were not, maybe ‘red flags.’ You were being told directly and repeatedly and you ignored that evidence. And until you acknowledge that you are not taking responsibility for what happened. You still simply do not get it.”

(Dillon) Congressman Bernie Sanders also repeated his call for trustees to be more accountable. He says if the board included elected officials, it wouldn’t have gone ahead with plans for a $55 million parking garage.

There aren’t any elected officials on the new board, but there is one who wanted to be elected. Con Hogan, who ran for governor this year, was picked by one of the hospital’s four parent institutions, the Fanny Allen Corporation. Sister Irene Duchesneau is chairwoman of the Fanny Allen Corporation. She says Hogan will bring integrity and independence to the board:

(Duchesneau) “To me the man is just the right kind of person to bring onto a board of this magnitude. And he’s accepting that as a honor really, and as a challenge and opportunity.”

(Dillon) The board got two new business leaders on Thursday. William Schubart, a South Burlington media executive, and Elizabeth Robert, the CEO of Vermont Teddybear company. Pediatrician Doctor Wendy Davis was also named.

Congressman Sanders and other critics have called for more fundamental changes. But boardmember Alan Overton says it will take time to overhaul the by-laws that spell out how the hospital is governed. He says all four parent institutions have to agree to a change:

(Overton) “In order to change those by-laws, unanimity is required. So for those of you who have that kind of concern, stay with the concerns. Expect this board to react to it in terms of its internal governance. But understand, please, it just can’t happen tomorrow. It’s just not possible.”

(Dillon) Hospital officials say two more new board members will be named in the next few weeks.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Colchester.

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