Fletcher Allen considers new trustee candidates

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(Host) A group that includes the mayor of Burlington wants to serve on the board of the state’s largest hospital. The candidates for the Fletcher Allen board of trustees say the hospital needs to be run in a more open and accountable manner.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) Eight trustees resigned last month from the board of embattled Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington. Now nine people with a keen interest in health care issues have nominated themselves to serve on the board.

Burlington Mayor Peter Clavelle is among those who publicly announced their interest in the trustee job:

(Clavelle) “I know that these are troubling times for Fletcher Allen. I also know that the ship can be righted and that public trust and confidence in the institution can be restored. I think there is an opportunity now for Fletcher Allen to alter its structure of governance and to bring on the board different perspectives and different stakeholder interests.”

(Dillon) Fletcher Allen has been rocked by a scandal over its huge redevelopment project. Some hospital officials misled state regulators about the true cost of the construction. The project was first supposed to cost $120 million. It’s now expected to cost $356 million.

The hospital also faced controversy over its plans to move a psychiatric center off campus. Doctor David Fassler is a psychiatrist who criticized the hospital over that proposal. He says the plans were changed after patients, doctors and advocates pressured the institution:

(Fassler) “And I think that’s a model that we can bring to other parts of the hospital. The idea is to open the board and open the hospital to more of that kind of input sooner from consumers, so that we don’t have to spend two years trying to get attention about something that doesn’t make sense.”

(Dillon) The Vermont Public Interest Research Group, a consumer and advocacy organization, helped put together the slate of candidates for the board. The nominees include physicians, nurses, a lawyer and a Burlington business owner.

The hospital is owned by four parent institutions, including the University Health Center, the Fanny Allen Corporation, the University of Vermont and the Vermont Health Foundation. The parent organizations appoint the new members of the board. Vermont Health Foundation President Penrose Jackson says about 200 names are now under review. Jackson says she’s pleased to hear about the new candidates.

(Jackson) “It is wonderful. We have been overwhelmed and gratified and reassured by the depth and breadth and diversity of people that are willing to come forward to help Fletcher Allen at a time when it really needs everyone’s support.”

(Dillon) Jackson says she hopes the new trustees will be selected by mid-April.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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