September 25, 2017
Dear MCDH Board, CEO Bob Edwards and CFO Wade Sturgeon,
Friends of the Hospital continues to meet several times a month to discuss the challenges the Hospital faces and to generate community solutions. As we move forward we have identified five steps that the Hospital can take immediately to increase public support. Implementation of these steps is critical should the Hospital wish to pass a parcel tax or a bond. Even if the Board decides to not go for a tax, these steps can still be utilized to create good faith with the community and strengthen public relations. Without acknowledging and acting upon these questions and solutions, the Hospital faces a real challenge in passing a parcel tax, regardless of what any community group can achieve through campaigning.
- Use the upcoming survey to really listen to voters. We have been reaching out to community members and we know the integral question for determining what the community is willing to give is: “What would it take for you to support a parcel tax?” It is this question that is going to give the Board the information needed to get a successful 2/3 vote. On the parcel tax time frame presented at the 9/23 Board meeting, the item “More Detailed Voter Opinion Survey Is Drafted” is listed for “early November,” with “Voter Opinion Survey Is Executed” to follow in “mid-November to early December.” Friends of the Hospital requests to participate in the creation and review of this survey before it is executed. In addition, we urge the Administration and Board to not conduct just a phone survey but to have Internet as well as paper options available so the largest number of people possible can be surveyed. The survey should be administered to every business in the district along with individual citizens in order to gauge the views of the business community. Is the presence of the Hospital important to their business? Do they have suggestions with how to raise needed funds outside of a parcel tax? Non-profit organizations should also be surveyed as to the importance the Hospital has in their operations. Along with this, is the absolute necessity that an anonymous, paper survey be conducted of all Hospital staff. We know that investment by the hospital personnel is critical to the success of this venture.
- Put a parcel tax in context for voters. The Administration and Board must be prepared to answer the question, “What does asking for a parcel tax now in the face of enormous future needs accomplish?” How does a parcel tax campaign focused on deliverables advance the vision, narrative and fulfillment of the hospital as one of the most important community institutions? How does the parcel tax help promote the idea that the health of the entire community is ensured by the health of full-service, locally controlled hospital?
- Commit to improving the ER experience. The ER is the gateway to the Hospital. Public perception of the ER affects attitudes towards the rest of the Hospital and can make or break acquiring potential patients. The Board and Administration need to create and make public a plan for improving patient outcomes in the ER. How can the Hospital make sure that everyone leaving the ER is given a chance to comment on their experience in a variety of ways and feel insured that those comments will be assessed and acted upon? How can the Hospital improve management of staff in the ER to mitigate the poor public perception of doctors hired through EmCare? We understand that there is currently a peer-review committee that oversees ER staff, but it is not adequate and management must form new and more stringent methods to assure quality of care and accountability to the public.
- Personally listen to the Public. The Board and Administration must allow for more public input in meetings, especially meetings that are intended to “sell” the idea of a parcel tax. Meetings must be conducted up and down the Coast, including all points of the district and at least half of the time must be devoted to listening sessions as they are to presentation. There is no way to change a potential no-vote to a yes-vote if a voter feels their story has not been heard. Voters are more likely convinced through their experience of being listened to that the Hospital is willing to work with the community to improve care. The Board and Administration must be willing and able to field questions about the community’s lack of faith in the Hospital based on quality of care and mistrust in the current Administration and Board.
- Share a convincing strategic vision. The Administration and Board have to make a strategic plan, including a timeline, available to the public. At the 9/7 meeting with Friends of the Hospital, it was unclear if such a plan exists and responses by CEO Edwards were met with jaw-drops and gasps. Steve Lund indicated the Hospital does have a plan, but it is not yet effectively sharing it with the public. The 9/23 Board Retreat failed to materialize this plan again. This has to change immediately. What you have presented as strategic initiatives are useful, but are primarily operational, short term, and managerial in scope. A true Strategic Plan develops objectives that originate from the mission and values of the organization and must involve community stakeholder input and discussion. If such development was done as part of the public meetings described in your outline, it could ensure greater support for the Hospital. The community will not support a tax for a business that has no clear method forward. The strategic plan should be the jewel of the parcel tax presentation, laying out explicitly what the Hospital plans to do with the money collected from the parcel tax, and what we plan to do regardless of a tax to increase revenue, to cut costs, improve patient care, create better outcomes, generate positive employee morale, recruit talented staff, and truly be the Hospital our generous and committed community deserves.
We never received feedback on the document we shared with Steve Lund and Bob Edwards at the meeting on September 7th. This document asked twenty specific questions in six subheadings that are needed to improve community relations and move forward with a parcel tax campaign. We ask that you respond to it and this letter. Responses can be directed to Friends of the Hospital at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are invested in the Hospital and we are going to continue to fight for it to be the best it can be.
Friends of the Hospital