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Charlotte Amalie
Monday, December 4, 2023


Local hospitals must be free of the constraints of the central government’s bureaucracy in order to function properly. That was the contention of hospital officials at a Senate hearing Tuesday night.
The hearing was called by Sen. Allie-Allison Petrus, chair of the Health Committee, who has draft legislation to provide greater autonomy to the hospitals in the areas of procurement and personnel.
Eugene Woods, CEO of the Roy L. Schneider Hospital, said it is vital for the hospital to make its own operating decisions, according to Wednesday's Independent.
Woods advocated autonomy in the "critical" areas of finances, personnel and procurement.
Making his case for financial independence, Woods said it took several months to pay the Red Cross for blood products. The hospital sent the requisition in July, but the Red Cross couldn't cash the check until January, the Independent reported.
Under the existing system, the hospitals can't buy their own supplies or pay their vendors. The revenues they generate go to the government, which handles the hospitals' administrative responsibilities.
Dr. Frank Odlum, president of the Roy L. Schneider Hospital Medical Staff, said his primary concern is patient care, which is difficult to provide without equipment. Odlum said the lack of autonomy is keeping the hospital from becoming a first-class medical facility.
The Petrus bill would give the CEO the power to hire and fire staff. It would allow the hospital boards to establish their own bank accounts and handle their own procurement.
Ira Mills, director of Management and Budget, said he favors greater hospital autonomy but it should be introduced gradually. He said the hospitals should be run like corporations, and suggested creating a private-public partnership to operate them.
Bernice Turnbull, acting Finance commissioner, also favored a five-year autonomy plan, the Daily News reported.
Some senators reserved judgment until they could review the bill. But Sen. Anne Golden gave full support to autonomy, saying hospitals should be run by professionals, not politicians, the Independent story said.

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