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Board members must show up

The state did not approve St. Elizabeth’s Hospital’s move from Belleville to O’Fallon this week, but put an asterisk beside that denial. The decision was more a commentary on the nine-member Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board than it was the hospital’s plans.

Just five board members showed up for the meeting on Tuesday, which made an approval unlikely before the hearing even started. The rules require at least five “yes” votes for a project to gain approval, so just one “no” meant failure. The vote was 4-1.

Whatever your feelings about the St. E’s move, this isn’t the way for the state to decide anything. The poor attendance is inexcusable – particularly after only five members attended the December meeting. After St. E’s pulled the project off the agenda then, Board Chairman Kathy Olson apologized to the people who’d driven hours to the hearing: “I’m a bit frustrated by the fact that we don’t have more members here, but it’s something I pledge we will work on in the future.”

Guess that’s a work in progress. While St. E’s is only allowed one delay, board members can fail to meet their responsibilities again and again.

One seat on the nine-member board is vacant because of a death, but that left three members absent and unaccounted for on Tuesday. Two of the three – Deanna Demuzio and Alan Greiman – were also absent in December. Demuzio attended just five of the nine board meetings in 2014, and Greiman seven. Board member James J. Burden, the third member absent on Tuesday, attended just six meetings in 2014, as did member Dale Galassie. Only Olson attended all nine meetings.

These aren’t paid positions, but come on. When these people accepted their appointment to the board, they also accepted the responsibility to show up at meetings. Multimillion-dollar projects affecting health care availability in a community should be decided based on the presentations and board members’ actions, not their absences.

If board members either can’t or won’t regularly attend meetings, they need to resign to make way for people committed to doing the job.