DCH Health System’s Board Moves Toward Inclusion of Northport’s Appointee
The board of directors of the DCH Health System is making renewed efforts to include one of its members after months of issues over a nondisclosure agreement he was asked to sign.
The System oversees DCH Regional Medical Center in Tuscaloosa as well as hospitals in Northport and Fayette and is managed by a nine-member board of directors.
Five of those board members are appointed by local governments, including two by the city of Tuscaloosa, two by the Tuscaloosa County Commission and one by the Northport City Council.
Dr. David Albright, who was appointed by Northport leaders to sit on the board last September, made headlines last month when he told the city council that he has been blocked from any meaningful participation on the board because of his reluctance to sign a nondisclosure agreement he and his attorneys found too broad.
"I feel very frustrated that I am being prevented from doing my job as a DCH Board Member unless I agree to keep the City of Northport -- the Appointing Authority -- uninformed," Albright said in May. "Clearly, we have challenges in healthcare in our community. Secrecy and lack of transparency are dangerous and are only making a bad situation worse. We need to work together to improve DCH and serve the needs of all of our citizens across our communities."
Albright said because he would not sign the NDA in question, he had been made to leave board meetings while the other eight members conducted the System's business without him.
Progress has been made since Albright voiced his concerns, leaders at the hospital and in the city government told the Thread.
Andy North, the Vice President of Marketing and Communications for the DCH Health System said the board is actively working to include Albright while still keeping some of the board's activities confidential.
"DCH has been working with Northport City officials and other leaders to improve relationships and move in a more collaborative manner that best serves the interests of our patients and communities," North said in a statement to the Tuscaloosa Thread. "The DCH Health System board is having ongoing discussions regarding how to find a good compromise between information that must remain confidential and offering more public insight into items that are addressed by the board."
Glenda Webb, Northport's City Administrator, said she has not spoken to Albright since he voiced his concerns to the city council in May, but said her understanding is that things are moving in the right direction.
"I can say that I met with the Board Chair, Mr. [Jim] Harrison, and the DCH Board has pledged to work with our appointee David Albright which I believe is encouraging," Webb said in an email. "I expect that Dr. Albright is to be participating as a full member now and to be held to the duties and responsibilities of being a fiduciary and will maintain any confidentiality required pursuant to state and federal law."
Neither Webb nor North specified what if any changes have been made to the NDAs that sparked the issue to begin with.
The confidentiality controversy comes during a time of significant upheaval within the DCH System. Three top government leaders said in April that DCH must change drastically in order to survive in the long term.
A day after that meeting, the System's CEO Bryan Kindred announced he was stepping down from that role later this year but would remain at DCH as a consultant.
Less than a month later, COO Paul Betz announced he was leaving the system to pursue other opportunities.
Board chair Jim Harrison also published an open letter last month, assuring the community that the board was committed to improving the System and working towards increased transparency.
Catch up on coverage of the DCH System at this landing page, and for more exclusive updates as they develop, stay connected to the Tuscaloosa Thread.