On some hospital boards, trustees who are busy with the hectic pace of their regular jobs, miss meetings. Often, those missed meetings just go by the wayside, especially when the boards are large and representation is a token commitment.
Not at Hermann Hospital, where Melinda Perrin is board chairwoman. If any of the 12 board members misses meetings or strategy sessions, Perrin requires trustees to make them up.
And, she personally holds make-up sessions at the Houston hospital at 7 a.m. sharp.
Fellow board members say Perrin's management style is reminiscent of a schoolteacher. But she stands firm: "We can't afford to have a couple of board members fall behind."
Although attendance at hospital board meetings isn't usually news, it became an issue this year at Sharp HealthCare where one board member criticized the hospital's decision to enter a joint venture with Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. In response to that criticism, the hospital's CEO retorted that the board member was out of the loop because he'd missed too many board meetings (Feb. 12, p. 85).
Perrin, 48, knows how controversy can tear at an institution's reputation. The teaching hospital was in the eye of controversy in 1985 for not living up to its charter as a charitable institution. After that, it signed an agreement with the state attorney general to increase its charity care.
Now, Hermann could be on the honor roll for tax-exempt hospital providing charity care. It provides a higher amount of charity care than any other private, not-for-profit hospital in the state.
Last year, Hermann's charity costs amounted to $43 million, which represents 10.4% of the hospital's net patient revenues. If Hermann had held to the 4% state standard, its charity-care obligation would have been one-third of that total, about $16 million.
"These are challenging days," Perrin said, adding that she sometimes wonders "how much longer are we going to be able to post those kind of charity numbers."
Perrin joined the board in 1985 and since then the hospital has demonstrated that a not-for-profit institution can do a large amount of charity care and remain financially strong. Last year, it was named one of the top 100 hospitals by HCIA, a Baltimore-based healthcare information company, and William M. Mercer, a New York-based consulting firm (Dec. 4, 1995, p. 54).
In addition, the attorney general recently relaxed one of Hermann's restrictions in deference to Perrin. The attorney general had said Hermann board members could not serve more than 10 years. It amended that for Perrin so she could complete her term as chairwoman, which will extend her tenure to 12 years.