MOUNT GILEAD — The dispute between the Morrow County Commissioners and Morrow County Hospital Board reached a new level when attorneys of Dinsmore and Shohl, LLP of Columbus filed a case July 30 with the Ohio Supreme Court for Patrick Drouhard, Chairman of the Morrow County Hospital Board, versus the Morrow County Commissioners.
Their writ of prohibition requests that the court prohibit commissioners going through with the hearing to remove Drouhard from his position on the Morrow County Hospital Board. The court granted the request and the attorneys for the Commissioners and attorneys for Drouhard have at least 30 days to file evidence before a hearing with the court.
Commissioner Tom Whiston said that the hearing of evidence in the case likely will come before the court sometime in September.
Whiston said that it is the desire of the commissioners to get past the disagreements with Drouhard and the hospital board and work together.
“We have no preferences – we want to see expansion of health care in Morrow County,” Whiston said. “We would like to meet with (Stephen) Markovich, the new CEO of OhioHealth and with the hospital board.”
Whiston said he wants the hospital board listen to concerns and suggestions of the commissioners.
Commissioners received a proposal from Avita Aug. 5 and Whiston noted that Avita had the “willingness to invest $2.44 million in repairing, maintaining, and purchasing building and equipment” over a five-year lease term at a $1 per year lease.
Drouhard said he only had the opportunity to read over the Avita lease quickly. However, from what he could see it wasn’t all that different from the Ohio Health agreement. And in the end there was not the guarantee of them building a new building as there was with Ohio Health.
“We spent 18 months in reviewing these proposals,” Drouhard said. “The board made the best decision with the facts we had.”
Drouhard said that he is willing to consider another proposal if it is better. For example, he said if another hospital proposed investing $40 million in Morrow County, he would look at that.
A primary difference between the hospital board and commissioners stems from the commissioners sending Requests For Proposals (RFPs) to six hospital systems after the hospital board had already done so and was making a decision. The hospital board believes that they have the sole right of management and that the commissioners don’t have the authority to send RFPs. The hospital board sees it as interfering.
The commissioners believe that Ohio Health could have made a much better agreement with Morrow County since they are not including a lease or purchase of the hospital building in their final contract
Whiston added, “The commissioners believe the agreement with OhioHealth puts the hospital at a disadvantage both in the sale of the physician practices and in abandoning the hospital property, should the hospital continue in its present decline.”
The commissioners believe they have a significant role in representing the owners of the hospital who are in fact the citizens of Morrow County. Commissioners point out that the hospital receives $1.4 million from the county hospital levy per year and the hospital still lost $5 million last year. They believe this reflects poor management on the part of the hospital management and of the hospital board.
Since the commissioners have discretion as to whether to put the hospital renewal levy on the ballot, they believe they should be part of the financial decision making.
Drouhard said he and the board made every effort to include the commissioners along the way in every step of decision making. He said there was no push back of the hospital board’s planning until in February this year after the final agreement was taking shape.
With the main question on how involved commissioners should be, one more distraction and hang up came as commissioners requested a meeting to decide the removal of Drouhard from the hospital board.
A concern commissioners have at present is the six-month deadline from May 9 when the agreement with Ohio Health was signed until the escape clause with the Ohio Health agreement expires.
Whiston stated that in the end the primary goal the commissioners have is that Morrow County residents can have more choices for health services right here in the county, He points out that the agreement the hospital board signed with Ohio Health leads almost certainly to the closure of the hospital.
Drouhard believes the hospital has done its due diligence and the management agreement with the sale of physicians’ practices is the best they will get.
Complete case information on Drouhard v. Commissioners is at: www.supremecourt.ohio.gov/Clerk/ecms/#/caseinfo/2019/1043.