Greenville Health System: Where we were and where we are now (opinion)

Letter to the Editor by S.C. Dist. 5 Senator Tom Corbin:

Some months ago, one of the Greenville Health System board members approached the Greenville County Legislative Delegation (of which I am a member) with concerns about a restructuring plan that GHS was undertaking in secret.

Once we began to ask questions, members of GHS management and board members invited the delegation, a few of us at a time, to meet and discuss this plan. We were then informed that GHS had restructured from a public entity into a private entity. They created two new boards above the one that our delegation appoints to run this new system. All of the hospital’s $3 to $4 billion dollars in assets would be leased from the old appointed board to the new board for the sum of $1 per year.  These new boards would be self-perpetuating: in other words, when one member rolls off, the board would pick that replacement.

When I asked why they were doing this, they stated that it was to better align themselves to fit Obamacare. I was never a fan of Obamacare so my questions persisted. I was told, like it or not, that soon our nation would have a single payer healthcare system, government run, and this was the best way to manage such a situation. I was told to soon expect multi-state and multi-regional systems.

Let me stop here and say that a single payer (government) system would, in my opinion, be disastrous. My belief is that such a situation is more about controlling people’s lives than providing healthcare. I also believe that competition and choice is best for all.

The biggest issue I had was the issue of accountability. Previously, there was a big circle of accountability. The Greenville Legislative Delegation appointed the GHS board which, in turn, hired the CEO to manage the day-to-day operations. The CEO was accountable to the board. The board was accountable to the delegation and the delegation was accountable to their constituents. This structure has been working well since 1947. The new structure with the two new self-perpetuating private boards provides no accountability. In the past, when a constituent had an issue at GHS, a person elected by the people was able to help navigate the bureaucracy for a resolution. I fear this is no longer the case

These new private boards were set up, I was told, so they could more easily merge with other systems and eventually have multistate conglomerates. What outraged me the most was when I requested that the management and board come forward in a public and open forum to tell the people what they did and why, they refused.

I believe the people should decide how they want their local hospital to proceed in regards to Obamacare and a single payer system. The reason I agreed to cosponsor a bill to sell the system was because I felt if GHS and its $4 billion in assets were going to go to a new private board, the citizens should get the full value of those assets. 

This is where we were and this is where we are now.

Tom Corbin