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Trustee elections to continue at Kootenai Health: Will not affect hospital's conversion to nonprofit

by KAYE THORNBRUGH
Staff Writer | February 9, 2023 1:05 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — As Kootenai Health continues its transition to a nonprofit organization, two seats on the board of trustees will be up for election in May — but the roles of those trustees will look different than they did in years past.

In December, Kootenai Health trustees voted to move forward with a transition from the hospital district model to a 501(c)3, following an update in Idaho law that allowed for the change.

By converting to a nonprofit, Kootenai Health will give up its taxing authority, sovereign immunity and power of imminent domain. Kootenai Health is the first Idaho hospital district hospital making the change since the law was amended.

Kootenai Health CEO Jon Ness said that makes it especially important for the hospital district to proceed carefully.

“This is a unique conversion, so we want to be thoughtful,” Ness said Wednesday.

The conversion is expected to be complete by early May, ahead of the May 16 election. At that time, the hospital district will become nonfunctional, with no employees, medical staff or hospital assets. However, the hospital district will not be dissolved yet.

The incumbent trustees who are in place at the time of the conversion, prior to the election, will form the initial board for the nonprofit.

Under Idaho law, a hospital district can be dissolved in two ways. The first way is through a voter petition process. Alternatively, any hospital district that has ceased to function for two or more years may be dissolved by the board of county commissioners where it is located.

In the meantime, Idaho law requires the nonfunctional hospital district to hold trustee elections as long as it exists.

There are two trustee positions up for election this year. Those trustees whose terms are expiring — Teri Farr and Dr. Thomas deTar — will be on the nonprofit board, regardless of the outcome of the election. The rest of the current members of the Kootenai Health board of trustees will continue to serve the hospital district for administrative cleanup following the transition and on the nonprofit board.

For the hospital district, the trustees will oversee governance issues related to the transition. They will continue to meet monthly with a limited scope.

Any qualified electors can run for the two hospital district seats that will be decided in May. The candidate filing deadline is March 17.