The American Hospital Association, long a white male bastion, is ramping up its efforts to make itself and healthcare more racially and ethnically diverse.
The Institute for Diversity in Health Management has affiliated with the AHA in a move aimed at ensuring the institute's strength and stability. And the AHA itself has been seeking diversity on its board in recent years.
The 500-member institute, founded eight years ago by several major healthcare associations, including the AHA, is looking to create more opportunities to assist healthcare executives in hiring employees from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds.
Raymond Grady, president and CEO of Evanston (Ill.) Hospital, was elected chairman of the institute's board last week.
At the AHA, Carolyn Lewis became the first African-American chairman of the board in 2001 (she since has died). The 27-member board currently has one Asian, Charlotte Yeh, and two African-Americans, Nellie Robinson and Kevin Lofton.
The AHA board will include one Asian, two African-Americans and one Hispanic when it reconvenes in January. In addition to Yeh and Lofton, the board will include Pearly Graham-Hoskins, M.D., a staff physician at Bladen County Hospital, Elizabethtown, N.C., and Frank Perez, president and CEO of Kettering (Ohio) Medical Center Network.
The diverse board is a reflection of the efforts of the institute, AHA spokesman Richard Wade says. "We know the field knows that this is something that has to be a priority."
No minced words
Never at a loss for hyperbole, the California Nurses Association didn't disappoint in its comments on the troubles at Tenet Healthcare Corp.
The CNA, citing research it sponsored, charged that Tenet's disputed outlier payments are three times the national average of 3.5% of Medicare reimbursements and are 14% in its California facilities.
"Tenet is clearly far out of line with the nearly 6,000 other hospitals in the U.S. and the other 500 hospitals in California," CNA President Kay McVay says. "The data raise some critical questions: Have Tenet's aggressive pricing policies led to inappropriate qualification of some medical procedures as outlier cases to generate higher profits? Does Tenet limit other medical services to provide more staff and facility space for procedures that will generate outlier payments? In what other areas of financial charges and reimbursements is Tenet out of line with other hospitals?
"Ultimately the source of the present scandal is not just the behavior of one rogue corporation, Tenet Healthcare, but the inherent flaws of a market-driven healthcare industry. Private hospital chains and private managed-care corporations squeeze each other to maximize profits, and both look for loopholes in Medicare or state funds to generate higher payments, regardless of patient need," McVay says.
HCA, that political springboard
It's common knowledge that the HCA family includes a major politician-Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), son and younger brother, respectively, of the Nashville-based company's co-founders, Thomas Frist Sr., M.D., and Thomas Frist Jr., M.D.
But the ranks of politicians with HCA ties may be growing. Tracey Kinslow, an in-house labor and employment lawyer at HCA's corporate office in Nashville, recently made his first run for office, seeking an at-large seat on the local council that governs Nashville and the surrounding suburbs in Davidson County.
Competing against seven other candidates in a special election to fill an open seat on the council, the 34-year-old Kinslow finished fourth with about 18,500 votes. He says he's considering another try next August, when five at-large council seats will be up for grabs.
Kinslow says his co-workers "were very supportive and very excited about the fact that I was running."
A teaching hospital in North Carolina, tied irrevocably by its mission to the state's budget woes, is applying a pair of scissors to the apron strings by going directly to the community for help.
This month, University of North Carolina Hospitals in Chapel Hill, in conjunction with the Curtis Media Group in nearby Raleigh, will put on a 20-hour "radiothon" for the newly opened North Carolina Children's Hospital. Local radio personalities Bob Lacey and Sheri Lynch of "The Bob and Sheri Show" will spend four hours asking listeners to cough up $20 each to help fund indigent care at the state-owned hospital.
The pair will have conversation and guests (well-known comedians) focusing on the positive things that children's hospitals do. "We won't be pulling at heart strings with a lot of stories about how Jimmy can't see," Lynch says.
The low contribution request reflects the hospital's mission, says Phil Zachary, executive vice president of Curtis Media. "We learned up there that this really was the children's hospital for all the children of North Carolina. No one was refused; no one was turned away. We felt that if we concentrated in one short burst and asked for an amount of money that almost anyone could contribute ... that we would have a real chance of being successful."
The 688-bed facility, comprising four academic hospitals, serves all 100 counties of North Carolina and gets less than 7%, or $39 million last year, of its annual income from state appropriations. For fiscal 2001, UNC Hospitals earned $39 million on net patient revenue of $455 million.
"We're not expecting any (budget) shortfalls," says a hospital spokesman, "but we're in an environment where the state of North Carolina is in a financial crisis and part of our income comes from (the state), so it makes sense for us to look at other possible sources of income."