From now on, successful personal membership societies under the American Hospital Association umbrella will have to toe the line financially and politically.
The Chicago-based AHA has drafted new guidelines designed to stabilize its relationship with its 13 remaining personal membership groups.
Instability in that relationship has led to the defection of two PMGs since 1992, the merger of two others into one group and the recent shutdown of another.
The AHA established the groups over the years as a way for individuals with special interests to belong to the association. Total membership in the groups is about 35,000 (See box).
"The new guidelines should make (PMGs) financially solid," said AHA Executive Vice President Christine McEntee.
Under the new guidelines, each PMG is required to maintain six month's worth of an operating budget as a reserve fund. It would be known as a "permanent fund," which would be controlled by the PMG.
Any amount greater than a six-month reserve would be used for research and development purposes at each PMG. Not all PMGs now have a research and development budget or funds for such activities.
"In the event of a crisis or as part of an intentional plan, access to the reserve funds of less than six months can be attained with the approval of the AHA and the society board of directors," the guidelines state.
Last month, the AHA made it clear it would no longer subsidize money-losing PMGs when the AHA's Society for Healthcare Education and Training folded (Oct. 6, p. 4).
Collectively the PMGs have lost more than $400,000 in each of the past two years.
McEntee said "only a few" of the PMGs have been losing money, but she declined to disclose the financial shape of individual groups.
McEntee doesn't anticipate any additional consolidation or closing of PMGs in the near future.
In addition to the money issue, the AHA also wants to make sure the PMGs and their members are pushing the same issues in the field as the mother ship.
While they will continue to advance their own causes, under the new guidelines they will be charged with collaborating with each other as well as the AHA, she said.
"We are all part of the same family of organizations," McEntee said. "We should ask them (PMGs) what they think. We have the talent out there that can shape AHA's policies; we should use it."
In a related matter, McEntee confirmed that two AHA employees who worked for both the Society for Social Work Administrators in Health Care and the Society for Healthcare Consumer Advocacy have left the association.
Richard Koepke, executive director of both societies and Robyn Dunn, a meeting planner for both groups, will both be replaced, and their departures are unrelated to revamping of the PMGs, McEntee said.
Neither Koepke nor Dunn could be reached for comment.