by Max Brantley
The unearthing of background discussions between UAMS and St. Vincent Health on combination of their clinical operations in Little Rock continues through Freedom of Information Act requests.
For those interested in the nitty gritty, here are some of the latest productions to Joann Coleman, the civic activist who's been pressing the issue.
* WHO KNOWS FIRST?: This batch of correspondence is particularly interesting around pages 18-21 because of St. Vincent CEO Peter Banko's concern that a draft proposal on the combination might be presented to the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees — and thus the public — before it was presented to the St. Vincent Board. Releasing proposed terms to the public and media at even the same time as a release to St. Vincent would be a "nuclear kind of bad" he wrote.
* THE ST. VINCENT PROPOSAL: This batch contains the first idea from St. Vincent on management of the blended institutions, an idea for St. Vincent to be in control that UAMS has said went too far.
* TESTING THE WATERS: This batch includes a proposed public opinion poll on the combination, including a sampling of opinion on who might be opinion leaders if the deal moves forward, primarily public officials and rich people — Tysons, Waltson, Stephenses.
A cut to the legal chase. Coleman is raising with university officials a legal point in addition to the obvious questions about patient and employee treatment in an operation that blends a public institution with one limited by church doctrine on some important questions, including patient medical services and employee insurance coverage and equity issues.
It is Amendment 33 of the Arkansas Constitution. You'll be hearing more about the amendment, which establishes the independent governance of institutions of higher education, such as the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees. It says:
... The board or commission of any institution, governed by this amendment, shall not be abolished nor shall the powers vested in any such board or commission be transferred, unless the institution is abolished or consolidated with some other State institution. ....
Can powers of UAMS be transferred to a third-party clinical operator controlled in part by a private institution, St. Vincent or anyone else? Coleman has vowed to press that issue.