In a move to streamline its operations in the Salt Lake Valley, Intermountain Health Care Inc. (IHC) has consolidated the three governing boards of LDS Hospital, Alta View Hospital and Cottonwood Hospital Medical Center, trimmed some overlapping management positions at the three facilities and created a new executive position to oversee them.

"The result is we're saving money and we're sharpening our focus on the clinical or patient side of health care, as well as the management side," said Gary Wm. Farnes, a 14-year veteran of IHC who has been named to the newly created position of chief executive officer for the three hospitals.Under the plan, Farnes said the three facilities will be managed and operated as a single entity.

"As America struggles with the questions of how health care is delivered and how it's financed, we're changing a number of hospital functions to help us increase our efficiency and better utilize our shrinking resources," said Farnes.

The reorganization is part of an ongoing plan first begun by IHC in 1989 to control costs, streamline management, promote teamwork and increase both physician and public involvement in management.

Farnes said the consolidation of three major facilities in IHC's non-profit, multihospital system has generated interest from health-care providers nationwide as they attempt to respond to rising costs and a declining patient load.

Formerly, the three hospitals had separate boards totaling 41 members. That has been reduced to a single 25-member board, which includes nine physicians. Top administrative positions have been reduced from 13 to eight. Secondary management positions have also been trimmed or consolidated, but Farnes said most of the staff reductions were accomplished through attrition or regular retirements.

In addition, some supervisors have been asked to "return to the trenches" for part of their time. For example, Farnes explained, nursing supervisors who formerly were acting solely in an administrative capacity are now working at bedside as well as supervising other nurses.

IHC, owner of the three hospitals and the nation's 17th-largest non-profit health-care organization, came under fire last year for being good at making money, while keeping it's not-for-profit status.

Several patient advocate groups and county commissions are challenging the tax-exempt status of the corporation, which reported 1989 assets of $762.1 million, excess revenues of $34 million and cash reserves of $207 million.

Farnes conceded the organization has been criticized for those hefty reserves, but he noted that health-care revenues can also be affected by economic downturns. "That money could help us carry on our mission in bad times," he said.

With the consolidation of the boards into one entity, Farnes said traditional board functions such as quality control, medical staff credentials, planning, finance and community relations will be handled on a valleywide basis, allowing board policies to be instituted only once rather than three times.

Chairman of the new board is Richard J. Galbraith, former chairman of the Cottonwood Hospital Board of Trustees. He also serves as a member of the Salt Palace and Fine Arts Advisory Board and as president and director of the Brigham Young University Alumni Association. He is also a member of the BYU School of Business Management's Entrepreneur Founders Advisory Board.

Galbraith's professional background includes work as director of BYU's Entrepreneurship Program, president of James Benefits, senior vice president of Fred S. James & Co., and president of Galbraith & Green Inc.