The question of where oversight of Citrus Memorial Hospital assets lands once the Citrus County Hospital Board goes away remains unanswered.
County commissioners declined to take a position on the issue during their meeting Tuesday afternoon.
And later Tuesday, the Inverness City Council said it would not meet again with the hospital board, but voted down a motion that would have told the CCHB it was not interested in taking oversight of the hospital lease or assets.
Instead, both the city and county said any discussion about the hospital’s future is premature until a state audit of the hospital board is completed.
City Attorney Larry Haag said the Legislature created the hospital board in the 1950s and is the only entity that can remove it or change hospital oversight.
“Unless the Legislature does something, this hospital board isn’t going anywhere,” Haag said.
County Commission Chairman Brian Coleman had placed the issue on the board agenda, after receiving emails from the public who were reacting to a column by Chronicle Publisher Gerry Mulligan. In it, Mulligan called on the county commission to take the lead in accepting oversight of the hospital assets and lease with Hospital Corporation of America, or HCA.
During a leadership summit Friday involving the county, school board, and the cities of Crystal River and Inverness, elected officials agreed there was no rush to claim hospital oversight since the hospital board is not expected to end until 2022 or 2023.
The Legislature has the say where the hospital board transfers its authority once it sunsets.
Coleman and Commissioner Jeff Kinnard said that county assets belong to the county. However, they agreed to wait for the Inverness City Council to decide whether it wants to accept the hospital assets.
“We give them a chance to make their decision before we react,” Kinnard said.
The hospital board approached the school board, which declined to participate in a plan to transfer assets and contract oversight.
The hospital board then asked the Inverness City Council for the same thing. The two boards met in November, and council members who attended Friday’s leadership summit said they still had more questions than answers.
Councilman Cabot McBride urged his colleagues to deny the offer.
“It is not the role of the Inverness City Council to assume responsibility of the hospital board,” McBride said. “This is a job for somebody else. It is not our job. We should not be doing this.”
Councilman Linda Bega, however, said the city should continue to engage the hospital board for information, without committing the city to anything.
“We should do our due diligence,” she said.
Councilmen Dave Ryan and Ken Hinkle said the city should not provide sole oversight of the lease and hospital assets. But they were unwilling to send a blanket statement to the hospital board, and instead agreed with Haag that there was nothing to support or oppose until the state audit is concluded and the legislative delegation moves to amend state law to remove the hospital board.
McBride’s motion to inform the hospital board the city wasn’t interested was defeated on a 3-2 vote. Councilwoman Jacquie Hepfer joined McBride in voting in the minority.
The council ended up tabling the matter until the audit is concluded, which Haag said he expected to take place sometime this spring.