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Opinion: Survey says: CMH has clean bill of health

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The turn of the calendar means it’s time for reflections, resolutions and forecasts.

Reflect.
Almost every time a merger or acquisition takes place, my reporting curiosity wonders what really is behind the deal. Who pursued whom? What did the suitor give up or gain? Is it a quick fix or a long play? As journalists, we ask and seek the truth, and persistently poke and prod in interviews. But the level of transparency varies when reporting on privately held companies.

Sometimes a deal allows us to peel back a few layers apart from our sources. The $120 million CoxHealth buyout of Citizens Memorial Healthcare is one I’m reflecting on. Hospital executives have said early on it wasn’t a sign of distress for CMH. Rather it was a proactive move to combat health care’s changing financial landscape, especially for the rural systems. The evidence of shrinking reimbursement rates and growing regulatory costs supports that position, but healthy skepticism still peeks behind the curtain to find other factors.

Then I was reminded of the Missouri Hospital Association’s Focus on Hospitals project on health system cost, quality and community health.

Turns out, the MHA data backs that up. CMH appears clean and statistically strong. The one rough spot in the Focus on Hospitals data is CMH’s scores in the “reducing harm” category. CMH’s “rate of major bedsores obtained during hospital stay” was 2.3 per every 1,000 patients, well above the 0.3 per 1,000 average bedsore rate at hospitals statewide during the reporting period, July 1, 2015-June 30, 2016. The Bolivar-based health system also crept above the state average for “rate of falls with injury during hospital stay.” CMH posted 0.8 falls with injury for every 1,000 patients, compared with 0.3 per 1,000 across Missouri hospitals.

Fiscally, CMH’s net income was in the black by $1 million, according to the MHA data.

Resolve.
If I asked what you waste the most, would you say food, money, time or water?

I feel like it’s time. But the No. 1 answer is food, according to the statistically proven game show “Family Feud.” (Tongue firmly planted in cheek.)

For money wasters, here’s a money saver: It’s called Honey, and it’s a desktop app I’ve recently learned scans for coupons at the check-out screen during online shopping. Savings are identified at thousands of participating websites and the best coupon code pops in ready to apply. Presto.

If your conviction is with time, like me, here’s a tip: Rephrase “I don’t have time” with “it’s not a priority.” It could change the way you choose to use your time – when we say it’s not a priority to finish that overdue project or make those work calls.

Here’s to wasting less in 2017.

Foretell.
I’m calling for a turnaround at the Humane Society of Southwest Missouri.

While it’s unclear what exactly needs to change, the Charity Navigator online guide for philanthropists has issued an advisory at the moderately concerned level. The trigger was the nonprofit’s lack of fundraising expenses listed on its most recent IRS Form 990.

“Based on our experience, charities are only rarely able to raise substantial sums of money without incurring any associated fundraising costs,” the advisory on CharityNavigator.org reads. “We have reached out to Humane Society of Southwest Missouri for further clarification, but have not received an adequate explanation.”

What we know is the animal shelter has been saddled with debt. It was in the red by some $200,000 in 2012, and now the Humane Society is on its third director since.

According to its Form 990s filed with the IRS, Humane Society operations lost roughly $125,000 in fiscal years 2013 and 2014. It did post gains totaling $230,000 the two previous fiscal years, according to its 990s. So the financial situation doesn’t appear to be dire, and the Humane Society’s net assets and fund balances have held strong above $5.9 million. But Charity Navigator only has the public documents to work with, and missing data sounds its alarms.

On the ground here, I take confidence in the Humane Society’s new leadership, at least on paper. The board brought in Sue Davis after a year working with Donna Casamento. Credentials aren’t everything, but Davis sure has them. She came from directing Paws Chicago, which is said to be one of the largest no-kill animal rescue shelters in the Midwest. She’s also a 30-year banking veteran.

While at Paws Chicago, Davis is credited with posting records in adoptions, spay/neuter surgeries and events. If she can carry that into the Humane Society of Southwest Missouri, the finances, particularly the debt load, should stabilize.

The board also created a new position: director of shelter operations and hired veterinarian Dr. Julie Horton for the job. Other good momentum is in the no-kill status earned in 2016 under Casamento.

In the private sector, the U.S. pet business is a $60 billion industry. I predict this is the year the much less glamorous side of rescuing pets becomes celebrated.

Springfield Business Journal Editorial Director Eric Olson can be reached at eolson@sbj.net.

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