What’s To Be Done With GHS

The Medical Affairs Committee of the Greenville County Legislative Delegation met today with the Greenville Health System Board of Trustees at GHS’s executive offices on McBee Street (they are in the old American Federal building for those of you who used to park there when Connolly’s Irish Pub first opened on East Court Street. Anybody remember the Shamrocks professional soccer team Greenville had in those days? But I digress.)

The meeting’s purpose was to give delegation members and trustees an opportunity to discuss the future governance of GHS in a forum open to the press and the public – an openness not always granted to the public during the last 12 months as the GHS board considered governance options in private.

GHS began the meeting with a presentation about their need to affiliate with other systems to create a multi-regional healthcare system. They insisted that the rapidly changing healthcare market made it urgent that they move quickly with their plans to protect the current high level of healthcare enjoyed by those patients who benefit from their services.

They asserted that the types of quality healthcare providers that would benefit our citizens the most will refuse to affiliate with GHS because their current board of trustees are appointed by the legislative delegation. Put another way, if the delegation continues having even a modicum amount of direct oversight, then we are damaging our constituents health.

The GHS board also asserted that they can lease their oversight and operational duties to a private non-profit entity that would have its own self-perpetuating board. Their proposed arrangement would leave the current GHS board, appointed by the delegation, overseeing a lease while the GHS assets would end up under the control of who knows whom and who knows where.

I am not a healthcare systems expert and I stated that plainly during the time that I questioned the trustees. However, I am an elected member of the delegation that historically created GHS via Act 432 in 1947. My responsibility is to serve my constituents who have an interest in the GHS system as a public healthcare provider to the citizens of Greenville County. I do so by holding the trustees accountable for their actions.

I do not believe that the GHS board of trustees has the authority to unilaterally void the legislative intent of the original enabling act that created them. They cannot change their governance structure without the delegation introducing legislation to amend Act 432, just as we did back in 2013 when GHS asked us to expand the number of board trustees to facilitate a pending merger. We also further defined their operational duties. Which begs the question – if they don’t need us now, why did they need us two years ago?

Obviously, the GHS board now believes that they can do whatever they want without any delegation action and said so very directly to us today. Some of our delegation members seem to agree.

It remains to be seen if the delegation is strong enough to show a unified front and retain the authority granted to us by the Legislature back in 1947.

The Medical Affairs Committee has another open meeting this Friday at 9:00 in the Greenville County Council chambers at County Square to further discuss what’s to be done with GHS.

Maybe we can play the old AC/DC album Who Made Who as the soundtrack to our meeting.

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Tommy Stringer