"Business as usual" will be carried on at the Tooele Valley Medical Center in the wake of a mass resignation by seven of the 11 hospital trustees Tuesday.
County Commissioner Lois McArthur said Wednesday the trustee resignations will not affect or in any way disrupt operations of the county's health-care system.That system includes the hospital, the county's ambulance service, a nursing home and home health-care services.
"Day-to-day business will be the same," she said, so residents should not feel any adverse impacts while the county proceeds with plans to sell the health system to a Tennessee-based corporation, Community Health Systems Inc.
Commission Chairman Teryl Hunsaker said commissioners have not yet discussed in depth the surprise resignations of all seven county-appointed members of the Tooele County Hospital Special Service District board.
There's no immediate need for concern, he said, because the sale of the health system is two to three weeks away and could render any commission action moot.
"If Community Health doesn't buy the hospital, we will appoint a new board," Hunsaker said. "If, they do buy it, we will have to dissolve the board anyway. They (trustees) knew that."
McArthur said the commission plans to draft a letter of appreciation to the former trustees thanking them for their service and sacrifices on behalf of hospital service district.
In their letter to commissioners, resigning trustees cited "deep reservations about the wisdom of your decision to sell off our health care system to a for-profit entity."
That decision, they warned, would make Tooele Valley health facilities subject to corporate "mergers, spinoffs and concerns for the bottom line rather than what is best for their patients."
The service district board had joined Rural Health Management Corp., which has successfully operated the county's health-care system for the past two years, in a bid to buy the system and operate it as a not-for-profit venture.
McArthur and Hunsaker disagree with the departing trustees perceptions of the sale.
But they said the remaining board can still continue to operate with four trustees, or the commission itself can assume the board trustees' functions if the need presents itself.
"I think we're going over the names of possible replacements for the board members who have resigned," McArthur said.
The commissioner also said that if Community Health goes ahead with its plans to organize a citizens advisory board, any remaining or new board members could be integrated into that group.
Meantime, one of the remaining four trustees says the board will "just sit back to wait and see" what the commission does.
John Cluff, who represents Tooele City on the service district board, reported on the situation to the Tooele City Council on Wednesday night.
"We could continue to function as a board, I guess, but we're not going to," he said. "We're not going to do anything rash, either. We'll be waiting to see what leadership the commission provides."
Cluff and the other three trustees representing Grantsville, Stockton and Vernon did not resign because they are appointed by their respective councils. Two of the 13 seats on the service district board are vacant.
Hunsaker said Tuesday he wasn't aware the resignations were forthcoming and indicated he did not agree with some of the positions taken in the letter by departing trustees.
Among other things, the letter criticized commissioners for not regularly attending board meetings and not making a better effort to communicate with trustees.
The letter also contended the commission never made the hospital aware of the county contract with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which required the health-care system to meet certain national standards.
Trustees charged the county failed to provide the health system with the funding needed to meet those standards and said they "question your diversion of those funds that were committed to the hospital, but were apparently used for other purposes . . ."