Community Forum by Fred Kniffin: Porter partnership decision looms

Dear Colleagues and Members of our Porter Community,
Let me start with what I have been telling audiences in employee, medical staff, and public open forums — within the next 2-5 months Porter is going to decide whether to stay independent or partner with a larger organization. This decision could be made a little sooner or a little later, but not much. My point is, if you have an opinion on this topic you would like to express, now is the time!
I don’t know if this is the biggest decision Porter has faced in its 91 years — (I missed the first 69 years), but we can all agree that this is one of the big ones, a decision that will have profound impact on Porter’s next 91 years.
For a few reasons I honestly don’t know how this process will end and what the board will decide once we have all of the information we require. First, we are still gathering the information we need to make an informed decision. We anticipate that this information will be forthcoming in the next few weeks. Second, once all of the information is on hand and all of the input from our internal and external constituencies is reviewed, the final decision is ultimately made at the Board level. Board work is democratic and as the saying goes “democracy is messy.” Data will be examined, input from our community, our medical staff, and employees will be reviewed. But at the end of the day, our Board of Directors, a group of smart deeply committed community members, will cast a vote for what they feel is best for our patients and our community.
At this point, I am feeling good about this strategic planning process. Our Stroudwater consultants are facilitating data gathering and negotiations with potential partners. The Legacy Committee of the Board is meeting regularly and deep in discussion. Our stakeholders, the medical staff, our employees, and the community are engaging in the conversation. As I have often said, when you put big issues through good process you usually get the right answer.
We held our first community forum on July 12 in Middlebury and it was well attended by local folks with dozens of questions and great conversation about Porter’s future among the people who truly “own” this organization — our community. I was impressed and encouraged by the insights, questions, concerns and, in the end, expressions of support for Porter Medical Center. We have additional community forums scheduled this summer in Vergennes and Bristol and I anticipate the same result — because Porter Medical Center truly is an important health care provider for our entire community. These are invaluable information gathering sessions — information that is being recorded and shared with our board of directors for their review and consideration.
At the end of this phase of the process, we anticipate that our board will vote to either pursue the path of continued independence, or select one potential partner and continue to move forward with very detailed partnership negotiations into the fall. If we do pursue the partnership path, we will be coming back to our employees, our medical staff and our community to share the more detailed information and discuss where we are in the deliberative process and the rationale, aspirations and strategies being discussed by our board. If that happens, most likely in late September and early October, we hope that everyone will come out again for this update and to ensure that your comments are included in this significant community conversation.
Through our Community Advisory Committee, our Physician Advisory Committee and our Legacy Committee of the board, we have many experienced, intelligent and committed people working hard on this topic — we need you too.
So come to a forum, complete our online survey (www.portermedical.org) and read about our progress in our local newspapers.
What will health care in Addison County look like for the next 91 years? How can we ensure that it meets the needs of our community? Those are the questions we will answer in the weeks ahead together, as a community.

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