Our board President Brian Van Bruggen and I were part of a group from Unity Medical Center that attended the American Hospital Association’s Rural Health Leadership Conference in San Antonio, Texas, in February.
While there weren’t any sessions specific to fundraising, it was incredibly interesting to learn that finance is the No. 2 challenge facing rural health care facilities nationwide (workforce is No. 1). Thankfully UMC’s finances are healthy, but it’s good to know what challenges may be coming in the future and start thinking about how the UMC Foundation can help.
Unity’s workforce is strong too at the moment, but new trends are emerging such as referral bonuses instead of sign-on bonuses, which encourage employees to hop from employer to employer. One “rural” health care facility on the East Coast shared that it competes with 40 hospitals within a 60-mile radius for workers. Can you imagine that workforce and financial challenge?
Other valuable sessions focused on governance primarily for governing boards, but those same best practices can be applied to our board too. It also reminded me of the importance of the UMC governing board and the Foundation board working together to address whatever comes our way collectively.
Probably the most heartbreaking session was when we heard from administrators at Uvalde Memorial Hospital who treated shooting victims from Robb Elementary School nearby in May. As always, good communication was key in that scenario and really in every scenario, crisis or not.
Another interesting—and maybe concerning—speaker was Jamie Orlikoff, a consultant concerned about the future of rural health care. He addressed the fact that U.S. health care costs are the highest in the world, yet many hospitals are losing money while insurance and drug companies are making record profits. Meanwhile companies including Amazon, Walmart and CVS are positioning themselves to enter the health care delivery market. CVS, for example, just purchased primary care system Oak Street Health. It also acquired a health insurance company in 2018.
Another speaker encouraged attendees to challenge themselves by embracing discomfort. He had recently done this by hunting in the Arctic and found several neurological benefi ts to the experience. We then followed his mantra sooner than expected while stranded in Denver for an extra day as a blizzard raged in Fargo.
Overall our group brought home a number of best practices for UMC to consider. We compared notes to colleagues from across the country (and as close as Tioga). It was definitely worthwhile, and I was grateful for the opportunity.