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Rea settlement, credentialing topics at WMC meeting


Greg Knight

Wrangell Medical Center Board of Trustees president Woody Wilson suggested a new and different method for the way the board should notice and hold credentialing sessions during the groups most recent meeting on Feb. 20.

The terms of a modified settlement agreement between the City and Borough of Wrangell and former Wrangell Medical Center CEO Noel Rea, as well as a group of former WMC board members, was disclosed during the Feb. 20 meeting of the WMC Board of Trustees.

Board president Woody Wilson revealed the terms after presenting the quorum with an email sent from Borough Manager Tim Rooney to the Mayor and members of the Borough Assembly.

While the original terms of the agreement, which were previously alluded to by Rooney in a press release last year, will stand, an additional agreement is also reportedly in place and set to be signed by parties to the settlement.

“There is now agreement for the return of the WMC information on the laptop and iPad used by Mr. Selle-Rea while at the WMC, and the deletion of his personal information,” Rooney states in his email to officials. “It was agreed a retired judge would oversee that process to insure that only actual personal information is deleted and our consultant, Mr. Yee, will also oversee to be sure the process is completed properly.”

According to Rooney, the Borough will also be paid $2,500 by Rea for the laptop and iPad, with their destruction agreed to after the Borough receives the complete data set of information contained on the devices.

In an Oct. 25, 2012 press release, Borough Manager Tim Rooney said, “Based on direction provided by the Borough Assembly on the afternoon of October 8, 2012, the City and Borough of Wrangell has accepted a settlement offer from former Wrangell Medical Center Administrator Noel Selle-Rea and six recalled members of the Wrangell Medical Center Board of Directors.”

According to Rooney’s statements in October, the settlement agreement will require the payment of $250,000 to the City and Borough of Wrangell and dismissal of the Borough’s lawsuit and Mr. Selle-Rea’s counterclaim entirely with prejudice, meaning the Borough and WMC cannot seek further return of monies from Rea and the recalled board members, and Rea cannot seek any further payments from the hospital.

The final agreement should be signed sometime this week or early next, according to Rooney’s email.

In other board business, Wilson made an amendment to the agenda regarding an item that had been listed as an executive session regarding credentialing matters.

Based upon legal advice, Wilson said that listing credentialing matters under executive session on agenda was a mistake under the Alaska Open Meetings Act and should no longer be done.

“In studying the Open Meetings Act a little bit more that is improper,” he said.

Wilson then cited a report from the law firm of Perkins Coie, who he claims are experts on the Open Meetings Act and how it is interpreted.

Speaking on the report, Wilson said, “Item number six is ‘hospital staff’ and it says, ‘Also exempt from the (Open Meetings Act) are meetings of a hospital medical staff and meetings of the governing body or any committee of a hospital when meeting solely to act upon matters of professional qualifications, privileges or discipline.’”

“We have a meeting, and it is not open to the public, but it is not properly termed an executive session,” Wilson added. “An executive session has other ramifications along with it. So, we’ve been doing that wrong and I apologize. I just discovered that after discussing with some attorneys.”

Board member Judy Allen then asked Wilson for a clarification.

“We will henceforth refer to it as what?” she asked.

“We would refer to it as the law refers to it; as a meeting of the hospital governing body to act on matters of professional qualifications, privileges and discipline,” Wilson replied. “It’s a totally separate meeting from our board meetings and is not an executive session.”

Board vice president Bernie Massin then inquired about the need to notice the action.

“Basically, you want us to adjourn the meeting and open another meeting?” Massin asked, to which Wilson had a one-word response.

“Correct,” Wilson said.

“But, that other meeting was never advertised,” Massin responded.

“It doesn’t have to be advertised,” Wilson stated. “Anything dealing with professional qualifications, privileges and discipline is done outside the purview of the public.”

According to Wilson, the attorneys for WMC have advised him that credentialing sessions which have been held as executive should be confidential non-noticed meetings instead.

“In a small community if you notice a meeting everyone knows what is going on,” he said after the meeting. “The law wants it to be confidential.”

Petersburg Medical Center Board President Tom Abbott said his group handles credentialing in a different way.

“Currently, we give public notice and it’s on the agenda that we will go into executive session to review credentialing of any medical appointments,” Abbott said. “When we come out of the executive session we are back in public session. Someone will then make a motion to appoint. We then name the appointments that we are going to make.”

Hugh Hallgren, the CEO of Sitka Community Hospital said he and his board operate in a completely different fashion than either Wrangell or Petersburg.

“We use an open session based upon the recommendation of medical staff,” Hallgren said. “In the event of anything controversial, like you have had there, we would go to the city attorney first and ask what to do. He would have to advise us on what to do first under the Alaska Open Meeting Act.”

Discussion of meeting by telephone or electronic means, as well as the possibility of future board meetings being held at City Hall, was tentatively set for the next meeting to be held on March 20.


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