GRANGEVILLE — Following a general discussion at the Aug. 22 Syringa Hospital board meeting, board chairman Craig Spencer was asked to step down as chair.

“Craig was opposed to the direction the board was and continues to move on a strategy to enhance our ability to protect the viability of Syringa Hospital and Clinics in the current health care environment,” explained trustee Al Bolden of White Bird. “Specifically, he objected to any consideration of any affiliation.”

The board has been researching affiliation with Kootenai Health out of Coeur d’Alene to, in part, help assure local services, purchasing power, training and coordination of services, board members said.

“I resigned because I disagree with the direction the board is taking with respect to the proposal for full affiliation with Kootenai,” said Spencer.

Spencer said the two most important duties of the board of directors of Syringa are to oversee and control the finances of the hospital, including balancing the budget and setting the tax levy; and to hire the CEO to manage the hospital and to support him/her in that work.

“Our board is giving these two important duties to Kootenai to do. And we are paying them to do these duties that the Syringa board should do,” he said. “The only thing the board has seen in writing is that Kootenai Health [KH] wants Syringa to pay them the total sum of the compensation and benefits package of the CEO in cash. Then they will hire and pay a CEO for Syringa and keep 10 percent of the cash. KH will determine how much to compensate the CEO and the CEO will get his compensation from KH.”

Spencer said that at the June board meeting the board asked the KH CEO to show them the agreements they have with the four other small northern Idaho hospitals.

“He refused, even though KH is a hospital district just like us and those records are legally public information,” he said. “We have no idea what those other hospitals get for their money. There is a whole lot about this proposal that our board does not know.”

Spencer explained because this is a total change in the organization of the Syringa Hospital District, the board should be taking a lot of time to consider it.

“I think it should take a year or more to analyze the ramifications of this action. Our board thinks they should ram it through without public approval,” he said. “Because this is such a change from our hospital district independence, I think the owners of the hospital, the district patrons, should actually vote on the question. One board of directors should not have the power to pass the administration of this hospital to an outside entity without approval of the owners of the hospital.”

Spencer said if the board does pass control of the hospital district finances to Kootenai, then KH will have control of our property tax levy.

“What will Kootenai do with our tax levy? Who knows?” he questioned.

Spencer also said if the board does pass management over to a KH, then they will control hiring and firing of the local professional, business and nursing staff and other employees.

“Since the hospital district is one of the largest employers then we are risking a lot of local salaries and local employee futures,” he said. “I find this unacceptable. Our home hired CEOs haven’t always done a top-notch job of hiring and firing either, but I think we have the best chance of hiring and retaining employees if they feel they have a local manager whom they can reach, talk to, and feel like they have a little control of their lives with.”

Spencer emphasized he has many other objections to full affiliation with KH, but remains in favor of partial affiliation with KH or with any other hospital Syringa can benefit from.

“I still believe that a loose affiliation with more local hospitals would benefit us the most,” he stated. “I object to full management by KH. The board refused to consider my objections, criticized me personally, just as they did Judy Scribner in the previous meeting when she voiced her reservations about the affiliation. The board is proceeding full tilt, so there was no reason for me to stay on the board.”

In their words: board minutes

Minutes from the Aug. 22 meeting read:

“Steve [Didier, trustee from the Kooskia area] referred to the board bylaws directing his concern at the board chairman for his actions at the Aug. 10 medical staff meeting. Steve said it was his understanding the board chairman wanted to attend the meeting to get the medical staff’s input on affiliating with Kootenai Health (KH) but instead imposed his own agenda items and overstepped his position by not speaking on behalf of the entire board. Dick [Tucker, trustee from Kooskia] addressed items that concerned him that weren’t in the bylaws and [said] that the board chairman felt the process for pursuing an affiliation should take up to two years when the rest of the boards thought it was time sensitive. Judy [Scriber, Grangeville trustee] made the comment that Joe [Cladouhos, CEO] encouraged the board to seek out information on other possible affiliations and wanted time to investigate all options, Twila [Hornbeck, Grangeville trustee] discussed inappropriate e-mails sent by the board chairman and not replying to e-mails sent to him by the board and CEO.”

The minutes from Aug. 22 continue:

“Paula’s [Calceterra, Harpster trustee] view was that the board chairman was ineffective at communication, and affiliation with anyone is an important decision. Al [Bolden] said the board chairman’s hesitation with an affiliation was based on emotion because of family history and it should be based on a business decision. Craig [Spencer] emphasized his opinion that KH wasn’t the right direction for SHC.”

Tucker made a motion to request Spencer step down as chair which was seconded by Hornbeck and passed by the board. Spencer accepted the recommendation to step down.

At the Sept. 27 board meeting, the resignations of both Spencer and Scribner were accepted by the board. Spencer’s resignation letter was dated Sept. 9, and Scribner’s was dated Sept. 10.

At that same meeting, vice-chair Bolden assumed the position of chair while he also broke a tie vote between Didier and Hornbeck that placed Didier in the vice-chair seat.

Full minutes of each meeting can be found online at

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