Forum board ponders future of a public asset in private
Time is once again winding down for the board of directors of Forum Health to submit to the bankruptcy court its preference for a buyer of the health system’s assets.
But it is still not too late for the board to stop treating the community that built the assets of Forum health over more than a century like a disinterested party. There’s still time to let the public know who the bidders are so that the community has at least some advance warning of what is likely to happen when the sale is complete.
The health care system’s creditors are entitled to payment, but it is also true that the public should receive some consideration.
And that is more true now than ever, since Mayor Jay Williams went to Washington, D.C., last week and made a pitch that a government that spend hundreds of billions in bailouts of various industries should at least consider trying to save a health care system in the Mahoning Valley that employs 4,000 people.
While time is running out, making the mayor’s proposal a longshot, some candor now on the part of the Forum board might provide the impetus that a rescue effort would require, or might persuade the community that Forum’s board is in a position to make a choice that has the potential of being in the best interest of Northside Medical Center, Trumbull Memorial Hospital, Hillside Rehabilitation Hospital and their employees and the communities they serve.
Companies that buy hospitals have track records and Mahoning Valley residents should have an opportunity to assess those track records before the die is cast.
But as of now, the only people who know what the future holds is a relatively small group — the board members, some of them civic-minded volunteers and some of them members of Forum’s administration.
This is a closed-door system that has basically been in placed for decades. It is a system that has also demonstrably failed in recent years.
It is time for the board to stop ignoring the obvious public interest in Forum’s future.