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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

home : opinions : opinions May 24, 2016

4/18/2013 8:11:00 AM
Commentary: Schools could take a lesson on leadership from hospital

Dan Engler

There are several parallels between the challenges confronting Verde Valley Medical Center and those faced by the Cottonwood-Oak Creek and Mingus Union school districts.

Fiscally, both the hospital and our local schools are continually challenged by reductions in state and federal revenue flows. At the same time, they must find ways to increase their level of service because of un-funded state and federal mandates.

For the hospital, the ultimate goal is to improve patient care. For our schools, the ultimate goal is to improve classroom performance.

When it comes to finding solutions to these challenges, the parallels between VVMC and our local schools are not nearly so obvious.

For the hospital, it was announced this week that VVMC did a thorough analysis of its own administrative and managerial structure and compared it to hospitals of similar size. VVMC administrators did not like the results of the analysis.

With the school districts, more than a year ago, through the Yavapai County School Superintendent, they contracted with two outside firms to assess their administrative profiles and how they might share admin services. Those studies were basically a waste of time and money.

The hospital took firm and decisive action on its own in-house study this week. In a decision that most certainly had to be painful, VVMC Interim President Barbara S. Dember showed true leadership and chose to prioritize “salary dollars … at the bedside rather than in management positions.” The result of that decision was the elimination of five director and two manager positions. Three jobs in Imaging Services – two clerical and one technologist – were also eliminated. In all, 15 VVMC employees were affected: 12 were moved into lower management or staff roles, and three had their positions eliminated.

For the school districts, they’ve invested as much time in succeeding at sharing administrative services as they did in waiting around for a pair of studies that told them what they should have been able to figure out on their own … that they need to prioritize salary dollars in the classroom rather than in management positions.

The catch phrase for the progress of the school districts has been “wait-and-see.” They’ve scheduled meetings. Postponed meetings. And basically found one excuse after another to do nothing.

Meanwhile, the basic problem of reduced revenue flows and increased demands for services still exists, and with sequestration on the horizon, those problems are only becoming more severe.

The famed polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton once said, “Leadership is a fine thing, but it has its penalties. And the greatest penalty is loneliness.”

Barb Dember is probably feeling a little lonely this week after making some unpopular decisions. But she did the right thing and she clearly communicated to everyone in the community why she did it. She showed true leadership.

As for the future of shared administrative services between our school districts, we know all too well what to expect. We’ll just have to wait and see.

We’ll wait and see if we have any leaders.

Related Stories:
• Verde Valley Medical Center announces management restructure

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Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Article comment by: Who is this lady Dember? Why does the hospital let her spend so much??

What would the schools take away from the example of the hospital. I have read all the articles and it seems that we people in Cottonwood have a big problem. Can someone tell me if the president and her other officers are really spending too much on luxury items. Did they really build new offices, cause if they did should we somehow get them kicked out. Can we make them leave? I hear so much about them missusing the money that the schools would be wise to just watch what they spend a bit more and not panic. Is it true the hospital doesn't give new people benefits, that is disgraceful for medical people that have lives to save and not be taken care of. My last medical bill made me not be able to buy Christmas presents, would the schools make the children do without the basics. This town needs to get this out in the open not put this in the back of the paper.

Posted: Monday, April 22, 2013
Article comment by: Slater Slater

Good for you Barb. We need decision makers not brown nose politicians.

Posted: Sunday, April 21, 2013
Article comment by: jan hillsdale

My husband had a contract with a service provider in the valley and we cannot believe that a major facility like NAH would make such rapid capital expenditures for expansion in a recession. With new healthcare on the horizon shouldn't hospitals work on providing great services that inspire confidence in them. We see low caliber food in the cafeteria, while hearing about costly purchases for new administrative offices for interim president Dember. This does not make sense. Patients have told us about the lack of doctor compassion, but cna's with wonderful attitudes. Your hospital has it's priorities backwards and unless this community rallies forth, you will be driving to phoenix for competant and affordable healthcare. Don't let the few at the top build themselves palaces at the expense of realistic values. Thank you.

Posted: Friday, April 19, 2013
Article comment by: Support shared services but ...

Editorial makes a good point, but...

... God help us if the school district ever starts pricing like the hospital.

The VVMC is the place where they run markups like 10,000% over competitive cost. They charge you like $75.99 for a freakin' band aid.

Get admitted to the VVMC without insurance and there's a good chance you leave bankrupt. They'll take you for everything you've got and then some.

Now, for the COCSD to share administrative services with Mingus, to reduce management costs and overhead to save the taxpayers money and provide more classroom dollars, all of that is a good thing.

I think it will happen sooner or later.

Let's hope the new Mingus superintendent is also the new COCSD superintendent. C'mon school boards, make this happen!

But the hospital comparison, while well intentioned, might not be the best one to make.

Posted: Friday, April 19, 2013
Article comment by: Let's Be Real

It's not just the reduced revenue that's hurting the bottom line, there isn't enough commercial coverage to compensate for the government funded coverage. It's lop-sided.

Posted: Friday, April 19, 2013
Article comment by: Richard Henderson

I've always wondered about the motivation of the 'gutless wonders' that choose to use a pseudonym to express their (usually) snarky opinions of events in which they probably have absolutely no understanding (See 'Is it possible - yada yada yada')!

My reading of the editorial seems that it is very much to the point - "We are waiting to see if the School District has the leadership" to make the challenging decisions ahead of them!

I am personally very happy to see the Hospital making the difficult decisions necessary to assure fiscal responsibility - takes guts to do it! And I hope the School District shows similar intestinal fortitude!

I wish the snarky 'gutless wonders' in the community would have the courage to stand up and stake out a piece of ground they have courage enough to stand on!

Posted: Thursday, April 18, 2013
Article comment by: Is it possible that VVMC just overspent? .

They seemed to have weathered the downturn without these reductions- while still buying up what seems like every possible clinic and complex or vacant building in the area?

Perhaps the chickens are just returning to the roost and Ms. Dember landed the unenviable job of dispensing the reality check's. Placing VVMC on a pedestal might be short sighted- similar to overspending?

I guess the previous "Visionary" director did not have the vision to see this one coming... or maybe he did and that's why he left?

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