MODERN HEALTHCARE's story about the meeting of the American Hospital Association's hearing committee in Philadelphia (Aug. 12, p. 3) may leave the mistaken impression that I believe an open hearing process for bringing issues to the attention of the board no longer serves a useful purpose. As I made clear in responding to Alex McMahon, I am completely supportive of the purpose of the hearing committee and of open hearings as a safety valve, but I believe that as currently managed the process does not work and does more harm than good.
I have now appeared before two meetings of the hearing committee urging that a task force be appointed to examine the functioning and processes of the committee, not its role. There is much evidence that its processes are defective and counterproductive. I will only mention two:
There has been no formal response to my suggestion at the January meeting that a task force be appointed to examine the hearing committee processes. Not one member of the committee in the course of the two meetings on this topic has ever asked me a single question or expressed interest in hearing any evidence I may have to support my suggestion; nor has the staff.
Except for myself, no individual AHA member has brought a major issue involving the staff before the hearing committee in recent years. This gives the false impression that there are no such issues or that the individual members are not brave enough to appear. Clearly there are major issues that members are concerned about, as a task force would quickly find.
A safety valve that doesn't function is worse than no safety valve at all. The answer is not to remove the safety valve but to make sure it is perceived as functional.
My hypothesis is that members who have major issues involving the staff avoid the hearing committee because they are sure the committee's processes are stacked against them, so they believe their appearance will not be productive and will introduce a sour note in their AHA staff relationships.
The problem is not the staff or the governing board members but rather the hearing committee processes. I believe the committee's processes can be redesigned to provide an effective open forum for discussion and subsequent resolution of membership perception of any issues involving the staff. This is not the case today.