I want to make this point perfectly clear before I start, Graham must have a hospital. We cannot thrive or maintain our quality of life while striving to improve our community without it. It is like water and streets, police and fire protection. We simply have to have a hospital for our future well being. I am a friend of the Graham hospital.
That being said, I am saddened by the conflict between the two factions currently at odds over how that hospital is to be funded and what kind of hospital it is to be, and if it is even to survive. This question would never have presented itself if the GRMC had been a healthy financial institution prior to the hospital district election. We might have carried on with the status quo, which was a hospital paying its bills and servicing the medical needs of the community. But obviously that was not the case.
Deficits in the operations of the hospital necessitated a solution be found before the hole became too large for the city of Graham and the taxpayers who owned it to dig out of. Surely, we all recognize that the funding of medical care has changed drastically in the past years. That means that a small rural hospital must maintain a forward thinking plan of action created by well informed and visionary board of directors. Cronyism has no place in this scheme.
Yet many would say that the board that existed was one made up of those who found favor with those making the decisions of who would sit on the board. That finds board membership sitting only as a token, or for vanity, and not for the general purpose of setting policy that sustains successful operations. This allows for hospital administration to control those not willing to put in the time and effort to make the right decisions for themselves. I have found that membership on a board such as this is often prompted by other qualifications and not from the cronyism some may choose to think.
We are developing a real need in this country for people to serve in these capacities. People just don’t step up anymore. It is not easy to find those that will take the time out of their life to serve in positions of responsibility, more especially to such a complicated thing as the administration of a hospital and its welfare. When we do find those willing to serve, it is difficult to get the attention of those who appoint them. Those who appoint don't always consider qualifications. Those appointed aren’t always qualified and end up being as bad as those who come from cronyism. I have a quote from famed guitarist Jerry Garcia at my desk describing my desire to pay back in the form of community service what my community as given to me. It says: “Someone has to do something. It is just incredibly pathetic that it has to be us.” So goes volunteer boards as well as appointed ones.
We had a problem when we filed for the election to form a hospital district. It was a complicated and emotional question. Did not everyone see this coming after that election? It has become an argument between the haves and the have nots. It has become a question of who is doing this and what are they doing it for. Credibility and trust has been stretched thin and is near the breaking point. One side feels coerced and extorted and used. The other feels wrongly accused and confounded as to why the other side doesn't see the problem as clearly as they.
Aren’t we doing this so that they will have a hospital? Communication between the two is not occurring and the problem is like a festering wound. It is probable that some felt like I did when this election was held. It was a premature election as I saw it. I was not convinced that the problem with GRMC had been properly recognized, described, and a plan of resolution taken before we abandoned the existing system. There were some hard answers to some difficult questions. Had we built a hospital too big for our budget? Were services too many and too thinly financed? Were our accounts receivables in good order and efficiencies in bill collection being looked for? What did that bar graph really say about where the money was coming from and where was it going?
I didn’t have answers to those and other questions. I also could see problems from the outside looking in that those on the inside looking out might have missed or couldn’t see. The hospital was sick, but not necessarily broken.
At any rate, when the group asking for the election hired outside sources to assist in the passage of the election from a public who at that time was trusting of what was being told them, trouble was sure to follow. Money was paid to see that this passed, and a well orchestrated effort was made. I have seen this before in Graham. The economic development tax, NCTC, the change in the economic development tax, school bonds, the county jail, and now this Graham Hospital District are all examples of concerted “for” efforts. It is not a new thing.
The problem here was that the closer it got to election day the more the support waned. Encouraging early voting was the key to passage of this district. The question failed on election day. I dare say that in my opinion, and I heard it said on more than one occasion by those campaigning for its passage, that if the election had been held two weeks past the day of balloting it would not have passed. Momentum was against it on election day. People who voted for it voted for their jobs. They voted because they thought the hospital would shut down immediately if it failed.
People voted for it because they thought it was a tax on someone else and not them. People voted for it without considering what the tax rate would do to their tax bill and the ability to own their property. They didn’t do the math. They didn’t realize that there might have been other pathways not yet tried. The question people were asked to vote on was deflected from the question of what happened to our hospital and how do we fix it, to are you for our hospital or against our hospital.
My question was which hospital, the one we have or the one we could have, and, can we have it without this new tax? I voted against the taxing of property and the creation of the district without more due diligence being done in the assessment of the problem. I did not vote against the hospital or the doctors and others working there. I have kept that mostly to myself until now. I felt it was a personal question in which my influence should not play a part.
However, in hindsight, if there had been a concerted effort to push an “against” agenda, how successful would that have been? I think the election would have turned out differently had this effort have been made. The media was for the district, all campaigning was for the district, and all that was at question was “are you for or against our hospital?”. I wish that effort had been made because now the opposition is a dangerous dance and the contest has no winners. The election passed with slimmest of margins and that was shrinking on election day.
The first tax bills have come and gone and that shock is fresh on the minds of those that had to pay them to keep their property. This is a powder keg and the fuse is lit. The first thing we must all realize is that we are not now talking about the previous question of a hospital district for GRMC instead of ownership by the city. That train has left the station. Humpty Dumpty is off the wall and the eggs are scrambled. We cannot unbake the cake and return the ingredients to the cupboard. We have a totally new problem that requires a different and as difficult a solution.
By dissolving the Graham Hospital district, we kill the hospital in Graham. Simple. We cease to have a hospital. Everyone walks out and shuts the doors. Not a matter of funding any longer. It is a matter of the hospital no longer having ownership. If the election of the district had failed, the city of Graham would have continued to own the hospital and would have had to find another resolution for the problems, as bad as those answers might have been for the citizens of Graham.
If finding new ownership seems to be a valid answer to all this consider this point. Another election as it is being proposed, and subsequent passage, would mean that there would be no hospital to sell because our hospital would cease to have ownership. A non- existent district cannot conduct any business whatsoever. There would be no one for a patient or insurance company to write a check to, no hospital to have a bank account or a utility account in order to have a business. It just can’t work now without the district we voted into existence.
Be mad all you want to be mad. This is America and the ballot box has spoken and the changes allowed by those who voted have taken place. There is no going back. We must find a way to make this work. We have to make lemonade out of our lemons.
A recall petition is poison at this time. It is time to form a committee and work to find a way to make this Graham Hospital District work for us, the taxpayers. The most important thing to concern ourselves with is the makeup of the Graham Hospital District board of directors. Consider voting to put people on that board that will look at the balance between what we can afford and what we ask people to pay. We are past the shock of this first tax year, and as unpleasant as it was, we are entering into another. Can something be done to alleviate some of the pain that this tax has imposed? Maybe.
There are questions that must be answered and problems that must be addressed. We cannot go back. WE must go forward. Do not call for the dissolution of the Graham Hospital District. It is too late for that to be a solution. That just makes our problem bigger. Select and back at the ballot box a slate of directors that will do the right things for the people they serve. Ask for a lesser tax if that is possible. Find solutions, but for all our sake, don’t create bigger problems. I really appreciate all of you for standing up for your community at this time and speaking your voices. Each and everyone of you are right, so far as you see it. But try to find that common ground that will find a resolution for us all.
Together we can and will find a solution to our differences.