The following editorial, written by Schneider Regional Medical Center CEO Rodney Miller Sr. to the V.I. Daily News, is printed verbatim without any corrections or changes.
July 25, 2006
Editor, Virgin Islands Daily News
9155 Estate Thomas
St. Thomas, VI 00802
Quite frankly, I am insulted. I am shocked and chagrined that editorial writers at the Virgin Islands Daily News would imply that the dedicated Board members and management at Schneider Regional Medical Center have "something to hide" from the public.
This editorial is baseless, and its vindictiveness is an affront to all the selfless employees and staff who toil long hours to improve the healthcare in this territory. It's one thing for talk show hosts to sling poisonous arrows because of political favoritism and preferred treatment for certain family members; it's another for a supposedly unbiased Pulitzer-Prize winning newspaper to do so.
I want to set the record straight here, and ensure the public that Schneider Regional Medical Center's financial house is in order and is providing all the financial information required by the Government of the Virgin Islands.
The editorial is obviously a backlash over the licensing issue, which the Daily News confuses with what the Health Commissioner wanted, which was beyond the scope of her authority outlined in the law. What your writers conveniently omitted was that the Health Commissioner asked for proprietary information from the Schneider Hospital that she did not ask from the Governor Juan F. Luis Hospital or any other healthcare provider as a precondition for getting a license. We argued that some of this requested information would compromise the healthcare of St. Thomas-St. John citizens and was information the Health Commissioner did not have the legal authority to require as a prerequisite to getting a license to operate a hospital. Furthermore, we were (and still are) concerned that a Health Commissioner who supports a private ambulatory surgical center that would drain the finances and subsequently essential medical services of a safety net hospital would have this information that the owners of this proposed center could use to their competitive advantage. Is it a coincidence that the same writers of this editorial very publicly supported this private for-profit healthcare venture that would drive up the costs of healthcare in the territory and lessen the ability of our safety-net hospital to provide care to those underinsured in the community?
The Daily News shows it missed the whole point of the licensing question. The issue was about procedure, not about public information. We supply public information, including our financial information, to the Governor and the Legislature. Furthermore, our monthly financial statements are submitted in every monthly meeting of our Board, which is open to you or any other member of the public. In fact, a Daily News reporter receives copies of these statements when she attends our Board meetings.
Your editorial makes a bold allegation that I, and other unnamed hospital officials, are keeping financial information "secret" and asserts the Health Commissioner has "broad authority to review the hospital's financial records." You are wrong on both counts. We've shown that the Health Commissioner has superseded the scope of her authority by relying on 1958 rules and regulations that was repealed in 1992. We've also complied to the letter of the law by releasing any and all financial information required of us. This includes a detailed annual report submitted to the Governor and the Legislature, and an independent auditor's report submitted to the Governor and the Legislature.
Just to assure the public, our hospital is performing better financially than it ever has in its 24-year history. Up until the year I arrived, the Schneider Regional was not even audited by an independent auditor! Certified annual audits are performed with unqualified opinions rendered and released to our Board as well as the VI Government.
It's hard enough running a hospital that receives less support from the federal government than stateside hospitals, but we have turned around the finances of this hospital despite these and other constraints. We've increased our cash collections by 29 % in just one year (up from $35.8 million in FY 2004 to $46.1 million in FY 2005). Despite financial constraints and uncompensated care we provide, we have improved our financial performance by reducing our operating expenses.
We've done all this despite unfunded mandates from the federal government (i.e., HIPPA, Medicare and Medicaid regulations that hinder patient care) and not being reimbursed for our costs in providing healthcare to our citizens. As I shared with the Governor's staff last week, our hospital is owed $8 million from the territory's Medicaid system and $2 million from other central government agencies. That's $10 million we just have to absorb. Thus far, we've spent $4 million of our operating funds on getting the cancer institute up and running. We spent more of our operating monies into fulfilling the very rigorous requirements and standards of the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations. We've done this all without obtaining our full allotment from the VI government, and without the ability to raise capital of our own to replace aging facilities and critical care technologies. I've written about these challenges several times in your own newspaper, but have never seen any news story describing these challenges that are unique to our territory.
Rather than writing a baseless editorial that impugns the integrity of our hospital management, the Daily News might better serve the community by exploring the simple question: what can we do as a territory to improve the quality of healthcare for all our citizens? It's not a responsibility I take lightly, nor does the Board of Trustees, my senior leadership team, nor any other member of Schneider Regional Medical Center. In just four short years, we've raised the standard of excellence for all to see, by doing more with less. For all Virgin Islanders who deserve a modern healthcare system, we can do no less.
Rodney E. Miller, Sr.
President and Chief Executive Officer,
Schneider Regional Medical Center
Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.