Progress, as the saying goes, waits for no one, but what if hospital donors think they've waited too long for progress?
In one Iowa town, some of them ask for their money back.
Four years ago, Mercy Medical Center-New Hampton had a proposition for the 3,600 people in this northeastern Iowa town: If you donate, we will rebuild it.
Donate they did, to the tune of $1.3 million for an $8 million project, but the hospital hasn't been rebuilt or even renovated.
"They've done nothing. They've just been diddling around," said local banker Robert Rigler, whose family donated $100,000 to the project.
The original project has been scaled back to a piecemeal fix-up of $4.5 million, including renovations of the emergency, radiology and surgery departments, said Jim Sexton, president and chief executive officer of Mercy Medical Center-Mason City (Iowa) which oversees the New Hampton facility for both hospitals' parent, Novi, Mich.-based Trinity Health.
But he said even the smaller project is tentative. The plan will have to compete for dollars in the 2001 Trinity capital budget with 44 other hospitals owned or managed by Trinity, Sexton said. A decision should come by April 2001.
Rigler said he doesn't want his money back, but other donors have received refunds totaling $11,000. That's according to an informal policy of the New Hampton hospital to honor donors' requests for refunds.
Refund requests appear to be quite rare. Bill McGinly, president and CEO of the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy in Falls Church, Va., said he's heard of only three or four in his 17 years with the group, which represents 3,000 fund-raising directors at hospitals, nursing homes, hospices and long-term-care providers across North America.
Generally, refund requests are "a wakeup call to the fact that the donors don't have all the information," McGinly said. "Once that need is met, they stay supportive."
Rigler said he wanted to hear from Trinity officials about the current plan for the hospital. "If it's a good explanation, I'm sure people like me will go on with it."
Sexton said a former administrator at the New Hampton hospital was premature in raising money for the project since it had not been approved by executives at Mercy Health Services, which merged with Holy Cross Health System in July 1999 to form Trinity.
The $8 million renovation was frozen in its tracks by cuts in Medicare reimbursement from the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, Sexton said.