Thursday, July 22, 2010

Still trying to save Twin City; LeBron's clues

   Maybe it's the stress of the times, or something, but I find it incredible that a consulting firm -- American Healthcare Solutions -- would communicate directly to the public after severing ties with a client -- Twin City Hospital.
   If you missed it, AHS president and CEO Jan Jennings slammed the Twin City Hospital Board of Trustees in a statement, saying that the board failed to take its advice, which was to seek Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

  You can read Jennings' letter here.

   Jennings perhaps took a cue from Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, who certainly said what was on his mind after LeBron James bolted for the Miami Heat.
   OK, so if you're a hospital in trouble and you were looking for a consultant to help you get out of a mess, would you hire AHS now, knowing that the firm might come back to bite you?

   All of this, of course, is academic. The bottom line is that Twin City Hospital is in deep trouble. Its civic-minded Board of Trustees know that whatever decision it makes will have long-lasting implications and it will make a game-changing decision soon. It has to.

* * *
   After last week's post, I received an e-mail from a man who clearly is angry about the state of Twin City Hospital. Here's part of it:

   You are wrong this time. A man from Pittsburgh is trying to model TCH after an "average hospital" for this "average community." There is nothing average about either. Open the books and follow the money. Outsiders are selling the community down the drain. JUST INVESTIGATE WHERE THE MONEY WENT...

  ...I went home this week, sat in the TCH waiting room, and when I was asked what I wanted, I replied that I wanted to report a murder…..SOMEONE KILLED THE HOSPITAL?
    I have been an actuary for over 30 years. I have offered to audit the books for nothing. I HAVE HAD NO REPLY.
   A man opens a clothing store. The 1st customer is 2 foot tall. The 2nd customer is 10 foot tall. He calculates his average customer to be 6 foot tall. The owner orders all shirts, pants, and suits to fit his average customer. ...6 foot tall! The first 6 letters of customer spell CUSTOM. Outsiders are telling the board who their customers are and they are just supplying bad information.

   Certainly there is enough blame to go around. I think Twin City Hospital's best bet is to quickly align itself with a larger institution. Is that institution Union Hospital? Who knows, but if I was on the Twin City board I'd be talking to Union's board.

   Affixing blame at this point seems to me to be an exercise in futility. My guess is that along the way a lot of people screwed up.

* * *
   LeBron James has for years been providing clues that he didn't want to be part of the long-term future of the Cleveland Cavaliers. As fans, we didn't want to pay attention to them, figuring that a kid from Akron would pick his hometown team over all others no matter what. Here's a sampling of clues:

   -- Wearing a New York Yankees baseball cap.

   -- Hanging out with the Dallas Cowboys at a Browns game.

   -- Never, ever saying that his favorite NBA team while he was growing up was the Cleveland Cavaliers.

   -- Continually referring to himself in the third person, obviously believing that he was "The King."

   -- Never mentioning his love of the Cleveland area or Cavaliers during his MVP award get-togethers in Akron.

   -- Tattoos on his body that speak volumes about his narcissism, i.e. "Chosen 1" and "Loyalty." Obviously the "Loyalty" was to himself and his entourage.

   -- Tanking in Game 5 vs. the Boston Celtics. Winning a championship in Cleveland would not aid his free-agent getaway. How does he use the excuse he wants to win if he wins in Cleveland? He wanted to play ball with his buddies in South Beach.

   -- The dust in the air, the pretend-picture taking, the dancing... this is not what winners do. Ever see Kobe Bryant do any of that stuff?

   -- Failing to shake hands with Orlando Magic players after the Cavaliers were defeated in the 2009 playoffs, clearly underscoring his immaturity and lack of character.

   I'm sure there are plenty of other examples. It's just not worth it to go on. The day after James made his announcement, the sun came up and life went on. Funny how that works.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Saving Twin City Hospital

   Twin City Hospital officials have been less than forthcoming with details surrounding the state of the hospital's finances.
  Let me see if I can help.

  Twin City Hospital is ... broke.

   It's really that simple. The hospital can't pay its bills, one of which was to Canton Aultman Emergency Physicians Group, which staffs the emergency room with doctors. Rumor has it that TCH owed $2 million to the provider.

   At some point, vendors, such as the Aultman Emergency Physicians Group, will quit providing services and/or delivering supplies if they don't get paid.

   So, last week, it's safe to presume, TCH was put on notice by the provider that it wasn't going to staff the ER anymore unless there was a payment of some kind. So, the hospital, without the benefit of cash flow, announced the ER's closing.

   In the meantime, someone in the community bailed out the hospital with presumably a hefty donation of cash.

   Some of the comments posted on the local newspaper's website indicate that there is something unique in TCH's predicament. There isn't.

   Hospitals across the country are hurting and many are relying on rainy day funds to get by the uncertainty caused by the recession and health reform. TCH, which serves an area that has double the poverty rate of its northern counterpart -- the Dover-New Philadelphia area -- was down for the count before the fight started.
If TCH has 35 ER visits daily, as was reported in the newspaper, how many of those are backed by private insurance? What's your guess here? Half? Less than half?

   Certainly, TCH is an important part of the Dennison-Uhrichsville community. And its board members are good people attempting to figure out how to save the place. But the reality is that Twin City Hospital's future probably lies in the strategy of a much larger institution with deeper pockets, such as Aultman Hospital or Cleveland Clinic. (The Clinic's logo is everywhere in Greater Cleveland and is attached to neighborhood hospitals east and west.)

   Perhaps a Union Hospital role in the interim is a possibility.

   Such an association would be a good thing for TCH. Whether the board can pull it off is another thing.
   I hope the Twin City community cuts some slack for members of the hospital board of directors, who signed on to help steer the ship, not keep it from sinking.

   Patience, people. This might take some time.