In a pair of public forums set for this week, held March 19 at El Camino's Los Gatos campus and March 21 in Mountain View, hospital officials sought to explain the recent decision to create several new advisory committees and add four members to one of its boards of directors — by appointment, not election.
In order to understand the planned expansion, one must first understand how the hospital's two-board system works. For nearly 50 years, El Camino Hospital and the El Camino Hospital District have been overseen by a single board functioning in a dual capacity, hospital and district board member Wes Alles explained.
. The planned expansion will only affect the hospital board, growing to a nine-member body. The district board will remain as a five-member body.
Two boards in one
The hospital board is charged with the business of running the hospital — selecting chief administrators, running promotional campaigns and overseeing projects like the acquisition of the Los Gatos campus.
The district board deals exclusively with issues pertaining to the El Camino Hospital District, including managing taxpayer money — funds are always reinvested in projects that either benefit the community or improve El Camino Hospital's flagship location in Mountain View, and do not go toward salaries, Alles said.
Board member Uwe Kladde's announcement in January that he would resign his position on the hospital board while remaining a member of the district board highlighted the little-known division between the two bodies.
Hospital board meetings and district board meetings, which had been held on the same night, are in fact separate affairs. Alles said the meetings will now be held on separate nights, in an effort to increase transparency.
Members of the district board are publicly elected officials. However, Alles explained, the additional four members that will be added to the hospital board are not elected officials. That is why they may be appointed — they will not have a seat, or a vote, on the district board, and they do not need to reside within the healthcare district.
A complex business
The decision to expand the hospital board was informed by examining the best practices of other hospitals in the area and throughout the state, Alles said. According to him, a five-member board is fairly small — especially considering the size of El Camino and the complexity of the health care business.
"I think we are a good hospital right now," Alles said. "But I do believe that with more hospital board members we will have a better hospital."
Though members of the current board have experience leading businesses and practicing medicine, Alles said the board could be far more complete and well-rounded by adding just a few new members with expertise current board members don't have. With only five board members, there are bound to be some gaps in knowledge, Alles said. "We are looking for additional board members with specific skill sets."
In addition to the new board members, the hospital is also looking to create a number of advisory committees, which will be charged with examining various areas of hospital operations and making recommendations to the board.
To fill those positions — none of which will be paid — the hospital is looking at candidates "mainly from Northern California," according to Chris Ernst, spokeswoman for El Camino.
In all, the hospital plans to bring on a total of 21 new people. Ernst said that the board expects to begin the interview process in April and anticipates that it will continue through the end of May with the first appointments being made in early June.