Hospital board looks to fill vacancy | SierraSun.com

Hospital board looks to fill vacancy

RenZe Shadforth

Although Bob Van Gelder received the highest number of votes for the Tahoe Forest Hospital District Board of Directors in the November 2002 election, he chose to give up his seat.

“Several days before I was to take the oath of office, an obscure law buried in the California government code came to light that would have resulted in the termination of my employment by the district upon taking office,” said Van Gelder, a clinical advisor for the district. “It’s very disappointing. I feel like I’ve let a lot of people down.”

Someone on the board inadvertently discovered the statute when reviewing a pamphlet for other reasons.

The law, created in 1995, disclosed that an employee of a local agency may not be sworn into office as an elected or appointed member of the legislative body of that local agency unless he or she resigns as an employee. If Van Gelder did not resign from the board, he would have been automatically terminated from hospital staff when he was sworn into office.

Now, the four remaining board members – Dr. Karen Sessler, MaryLou Sullivan, Rob Eskridge and Larry Long – will appoint the board member whom will fill Van Gelder’s shoes at their regularly scheduled board meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 28.

“We just had an election and it’s kind of an awkward position to be in,” said Sessler, who is the current presiding officer of the board. “We want to keep the appointment as public as possible.”

The board could have held another election for the position, she added, but it would have cost far more money than an appointment. Plus, special elections have had a penchant for poor voter turnout.

Eskridge, who was appointed to the board 10 years ago, said an appointment like this is not uncommon.

“It doesn’t make sense, on the heels of a regular election, to hold a special election,” he said. “It would have cost $30,000 to $50,000, and that’s money that would be better spent on health care.”

Depending on the number of applicants for the position, the board plans on cutting the list down to six candidates. Those applicants will be interviewed at the Jan. 28 board meeting for the Tahoe Forest Hospital District.

The chosen candidate will serve on the board until the next general election in November 2004. The usual term for a board member is four years.

Many of the board members said they anticipate that most of the candidates, whom ran in the November 2002 election, will return to apply for the position.

“I think it is important for whoever joins [the board] to have a good business background and a connection to the community,” Eskridge said. “It’s all about the mix of skills we have that makes a really big difference as far as our success as a board. I don’t think a background in health care is as critical at this time. The big thing is that we’re in the middle of a major expansion project.”

The Tahoe Forest Hospital’s 47,000-square-foot expansion has an estimated $3 million budget. The first phase of the expansion, which includes two new operating rooms, has been completed. The second phase, site preparation for the two-floor addition to the hospital, is almost complete. Hospital administrators have said they plan on breaking ground to develop the new facility in April.

“The current board of directors of the next few years will be watching the hospital’s finances very closely to be sure we can offer everything we can,” Eskridge said.

The major functions of the hospital board are to supervise CEO Robert Schapper, strategic planning, and the financial oversight of the hospital (or “wisely using taxpayer’s dollars,” Sessler said).

Another important obligation of the board, according to Sullivan, is to listen to the community.

“The best board members, in my opinion, are those who truly have a passion about excellent health care for all members of our community,” she said. “Simply put: A hospital boardmember is a real and representative link to the greater community.”

Interested applicants may submit a letter of intent with their qualifications to the Tahoe Forest Hospital administration office by Thursday, Jan. 16 at noon.

Applicants must be a registered voter and a resident of the Tahoe Forest Hospital District in eastern Nevada or Placer counties.

Mail letters to the Tahoe Forest Hospital District Administration Office, Attn. Robert A. Schapper, CEO, P.O. Box 759, Truckee, CA 96160. Letters may also be hand delivered to the district’s administration office.

For more information, call 582-3481.