The board of directors of Loudoun Healthcare Inc. voted Thursday to form a liaison committee between the hospital and the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors in an effort to improve communication between the two groups as the hospital tries to recover from its financial difficulties.

Supervisors Chairman Scott K. York (R-At Large) and Vice Chairman Eleanore C. Towe (D-Blue Ridge) will join new LHI board Chairman Mark Lowers and board member Joseph Boling as members of the committee, which will meet regularly to discuss the hospital's progress.

The supervisors recently adopted a resolution requesting representation on the hospital's board of directors, and Towe said she and the other supervisors will "keep the pressure on" for that change.

Towe said she was delighted to be appointed to the liaison committee, adding that she has been "riding [the hospital] hard" about its responsibility to the community, especially to western Loudoun residents who felt slighted by the hospital's move east in 1997.

Since the move from Leesburg to Lansdowne, the hospital has reported a loss of $27 million and last year hired a Louisiana-based consulting firm, Pitts Management, to help restore its financial stability and preserve the hospital as an independent institution.

Earlier this month, acting on a recommendation from Pitts, the board voted to restructure--creating several new openings--and to open the process of membership selection to the community. A nominating committee was formed to help with the selection process, and Towe said the supervisors hope to become involved through the liaison committee.

The role the liaisons will play is unclear, however.

"It's yet to be defined what that will end up being," said Joseph Ramos, former chairman of the LHI board. At Thursday's meeting, the board elected Lowers chairman to replace Ramos, who chose not to run for reelection.

Ramos also said a decision about whether to establish a supervisor's seat on the board of directors will take a back seat to more pressing matters, including too few hospital beds to keep up with demand. LHI is preparing an application to the state to expand its capacity.

The hospital also is in the middle of a search to replace interim chief executive Joseph Ruffolo. At Thursday's board meeting, the directors selected a chief executive search committee. In addition to Ramos and York, the search committee members are Mark Stavish, vice president of human resources at America Online Inc.; Kerry Skeen, president of Atlantic Coast Airlines; Judy Mazzucchelli, president of the Loudoun Hospital Ladies Board and a member of the Loudoun Hospital Foundation; James Gable, chief of the hospital's medical staff; hospital board member Elizabeth Miller, publisher of the Loudoun Easterner; and Lowers, president of a security company called AMSEC International.

The hospital has received more than 200 applications for the chief executive position, and Pitts representatives have interviewed 30 candidates. The board hopes to make a decision by March.

Also Thursday, the board elected Boling, president of Middleburg Bank, as vice chairman and treasurer and Miller as secretary.

The terms for officers will be two years, and the terms for members of the board, which eventually will consist of 14 members, will be staggered, with one-third of the membership turning over every two years.

Ramos said he is optimistic about the future of LHI, which reported breaking even for the month of December. "I feel so much better than I did six months ago," he said.