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Hospital trustee race most expensive in Boone County

A man in green scrubs walks briskly down the hallway at the Missouri Heart Center on East Broadway. At the other end, a receptionist is talking with another man at the desk, helping fulfill the task his wife sent him to the office for Friday afternoon. Before the man in green scrubs reaches the end of the hallway, to Dr. Jerry Kennett’s office, the receptionist pops back and yells to him.

“Get two signs,” she says.

For the last two months, Dr. Kennett has stashed several signs for his campaign for Boone Hospital Board of Trustees in his office. After forty years of practicing cardiology in mid-Missouri, Kennett is proud of the patient base he’s built in the time – many of those that request a sign.

“I like having close relationships with my patients, so it’s been a great field to be in,” Kennett said.

Kennett works across the street from Boone Hospital Center, a building he worked as recently as four months ago. Now working independently, Kennett wants to serve on the board that helps guide the hospital’s policies.

“I want my patients to have an outstanding institution where patients have accessible, affordable, high-quality healthcare is delivered,” Kennett said.

Almost obviously, his opponent, Dr. Robert Doroghazi, agrees. A retired cardiologist working in mid-Missouri for twenty years, Doroghazi worked with Dr. Kennett in the 1980s, also serving in Boone Hospital for some time.

“I’ve got a lot of time, a lot of blood, sweat and tears invested in Boone Hospital,” Doroghazi said at his home on Bingham Lane. “I’m unhappy with the direction the last couple years.”

Currently, BJC Healthcare operates in the county’s hospital, providing both the staff and administrative duties. BJC Healthcare’s lease with Boone Hospital Center ends in 2020, with negotiations for the lease beginning in 2018. The Board of Trustees are in charge of those negotiations, as well as deciding with whom those negotiations will take place with. Board members serve five year terms, meaning the person elected on April 7 will serve as a trustee until 2020 – the only member who will have a term uninterrupted by an election until the lease ends.

Doroghazi said the micro-management BJC Healthcare brought to Boone Hospital Center made it difficult for staff to effectively run the hospital. As a member of the Board of Trustees,

Kennett would not elaborate if he supported a particular option for negotiations, such as a new company, bringing the University of Missouri into the fold or operating independently.

While negotiations remain three years away from starting, the two have raised a large amount of money for the race. According to records from the Missouri Ethics Commission, both have raised more than $67,000, and spent just more than $40,000. However, the particular campaigns spending skew towards one end. Doroghazi, as of the filing on March 30, spent $6,134, a little less than half the $12,480 he raised.

“I raised about what I thought would be the amount necessary and that I was willing to spend and would be required,” Doroghazi said.

After raising $55,430, Kennett spent $34,077. The next closest candidate on the Columbia-specific ballot is Sixth Ward city council candidate Ryan Euliss, at $23,122.

“We didn’t send out letters saying, ‘Please send us 500 dollars, please send us 100 dollars,” Kennett said of the large amount of money raised. “People have just been generous. A lot of people that have given money are my patients that I have a close relationship with. And many patients that I’ve had a close relationship with for 30 years.”

The connections are apparent, even in his ad commercials featuring former Mizzou men’s basketball coach Norm Stewart. Donors include Audrey Walton and current men’s basketball coach Kim Anderson.

Kennett also cited his time as chief medical officer as a boon to the job, rather than a mark of impropriety of his connection to BJC Healthcare.

“Those five years gave me the best understanding of how things operate with BJC than anybody around,” Kennett said. “And so I’m now an independent physician, and will be on the Board of Trustees. My loyalty is to Boone Hospital Center, not to anybody else.”

“Citizens need to step up to things like this when they think they have something to offer and are unhappy with the direction of things,” Doroghazi said of his desire for the trustee spot.

Either one elected would be the only physician serving on the Boone Hospital Board of Trustees.

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