Friction between the Greenwood Leflore Hospital Board and the medical staff is nothing new. For several years those tensions have been apparent, largely because the hospital’s physicians feel either excluded from decision-making or their opinions ignored.

This week, it came to a head again, with a contingent of the hospital’s physicians taking their complaint to the Greenwood City Council, which has the responsibility for appointing two of the five board members who oversee the publicly owned hospital.

According to the physicians group, as presented by Dr. Craig Clark, chair of the Medical Executive Committee, the doctors have been trying to meet for the past few weeks with the hospital board to discuss the findings of a consultant’s study of the hospital’s operation. Two meetings have been set up, and each time, the same three board members — city appointee Sammy Foster, and county appointees Nick Chandler and Freddie White-Johnson — have been no-shows.

Two of those absent board members, Chandler and White-Johnson, say their absence was not meant as a slight to the physicians, but was simply a scheduling conflict. The doctors think otherwise, that it’s an intentional refusal to hear them out.

Whichever is the case, the fact that there are different interpretations of what’s going on underlies the less-than-ideal relationship between some members of the board and the medical staff.

Clark makes a good point when he attributes part of the problem to the lack of medical expertise on the board. White-Johnson has some health-care background as a cancer-fighting advocate, but it’s not as a medical professional.

Ideally, the board would be constituted of individuals who cover all of the hospital’s aspects, bringing perspectives of business operator, of patient and of medical provider. It is short on the latter of the three.

Mayor Carolyn McAdams would like to see a physician on the hospital board, but we’re not sure how that would work. Those doctors who are employed by the hospital would be ineligible because of the obvious conflict of interest. Those who are not employed by the hospital but have a business relationship with it might also have the same problem. That leaves only retired physicians, for whom there is a small supply, since doctors tend to work well past the typical retirement age.

The quickest answer to this friction is for the board to be more receptive to gathering the input from the medical staff and considering it as the board weighs hiring and policy decisions.

Running a hospital is a complex endeavor. No board member, no matter how learned that board member might be, is going to have the expertise to understand it without some help. That means gathering all the knowledge they can, from administrators and practitioners both, so they can make solid, informed decisions.

This should be a collaborative effort, not an adversarial one. The onus falls on the board to take the steps necessary to improve its working relationship with the medical staff.

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