Concerned Citizens meet at Bath High School

A group of just over a hundred Bath area residents gathered Thursday night at the high school to talk about the hospital. Concerned Citizens called the meeting, and facilitated questions and comments from the stage. They had hoped to be joined by any representatives of the Hospital Board of Directors, but were disappointed, as that table remained empty.

Mr. Mel Herwald, one of the new board members was present, though not at the table, and offered to clearly relay any messages from the public to the board. He also mentioned that new hospital administrator, Cathy Landreth, has been helpful and open-minded while everyone is working through this time of transition. Dr. Reddington, and Dr. Bost also spoke. (Dr. Reddington’s vision for what Bath Community Hospital could look like in a best case scenario, is available on the AMR website.)

The two issues the Concerned Citizens focus on the most strongly are the need for the Bath Community Hospital’s board to be more transparent with its decision-making, and for board member George Phillips to resign. They would also like to see Dr. Bost, a hospital staff member, who recently chose not to renew his contract, be reinstated.  Yet, the hospital is a privately owned, even if non-profit, corporation, and it’s directors are not elected officials serving the public obliged to disclose everything. Frustration and fear colored many of the comments, but essentially shared a common thread; the hospital is a treasure in the community, and should not be taken for granted.

Members of the audience voiced a variety of questions, some of which might be fairly straightforward to answer “officially”, and whose answers could go a long way towards softening the complaint that the hospital refuses to communicate in any way.

One question was, “ Do we know what the vision of the hospital is?” followed by “Why are the board bylaws not public?; “What is the process for getting appointed to the board?” and loosely “What can we DO? or Do the Concerned Citizens want to be more than a watchdog organization?”. With the Concerned Citizens steady emphasis on the need for George Phillips to step down, one cannot help but question why there is such a perceived imbalance in power within the board. Common practices on most boards are term limits, staggered terms, and a nominating committee, insuring that no one person remains in their position for so long that the group becomes stuck in an unhealthy dynamic. Yet, in a small population where community-minded residents are already overextending themselves, it is hard to find willing volunteers with the specialized knowledge it takes to run a hospital. When asked by an audience member what the current term limits are, Stephen Terry of the Concerned Citizens replied,

“And of course Board of Directors are appointed for, I believe twelve years, and there’s really no way to get them off unless the board votes them off by two-thirds vote.”

So with their frustration level rising, the Concerned Citizens resolved that their biggest power is in their persistence. Dr. Bost spoke to this,

“ My message, I think is, we’re not going to stop until you hear us. And once you here us, and convince us we’re wrong, we’ll quietly go away. I think that’s the key, and it can be done in a million different ways, the letters and the phone calls, any number of ways, whatever you can think of, but I think these individual people need to hear it from all of us, and they need to hear it over and over again, and eventually somebody on that board is going to say, ‘These people are not going away. We gotta listen to them.’ ”

This whole scenario reminds me of a prayer I once learned. ”

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Amen”





Story By

Bonnie Ralston

Bonnie Ralston is the Assistant Station Coordinator at WVLS and a Highland County news reporter. She began volunteering at Allegheny Mountain Radio in the fall of 2005. In 2006 she became an AMR employee and worked in Bath County for eight years as the WCHG Station Coordinator and then as the news reporter there. She began working in radio while in college and has stayed connected to radio, in one way or another, for more than thirty years. She grew up in Staunton, Virginia, while spending a lot of time on her family’s farm in Deerfield, Virginia. She enjoys spending time outside, watching old TV shows and movies and tending to her chickens.

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