Opinion: How Tahoe Forest Hospital can restore community trust
Given the unceremonious departure of the last two CEOs of Tahoe Forest Hospital, the August 21 guest column from Dr. Karen Sessler about Tahoe Forest Hospital “making wonderful strides” could do more to restore community trust in the hospital’s administration.
The President of the hospital’s board describes the hospital as earning money “like any other business.” This misleading picture of how the hospital financially survives raises old questions about its financial future.
The President strays by equating our hospital with a private business. The hospital enjoys financial privileges no private business could hope for. While private business taxes are returned to the community, no taxes are imposed on the hospital’s property, income, or bond-financing.
The President casts the hospital’s financial success in terms of the care it provides the “disadvantaged.” However, the question is not whether the hospital provides community services, but whether these services offset the lost taxes. It might be the hospital’s no-taxes privilege simply masks poor financial decisions and wasteful spending.
It is clear the hospital provides valuable community services. The many employees who make those services successful deserve our continued support. It is not clear the hospital is doing all it should as a governmental institution.
To help restore community trust, the hospital should stop claiming it earns money like a private business. The hospital needs to accurately describe how much it saves through its no-tax privilege, how much it spends on community service, and reveal the amounts it receives in tax revenues, Medicare funding, Medical funding, insurance, patient payments, and donations.
It is also time for the hospital to stop consolidating its financial statements and follow its outside auditor’s advice to separately disclose the financial operation of its donor foundation. This would help restore community trust and make it easier to agree the hospital is making appropriate strides.