Mission Health unveils ‘mega’ foundation

Foundation said to be significant outcome of HCA Healthcare acquisition

In March, when Mission Health announced its plans to merge with HCA Healthcare, the formation of a mega foundation was touted as being a huge benefit of the acquisition for the Western North Carolina community.

“A key component of the proposed agreement is the establishment of a new foundation that would provide substantial annual investments dedicated to improving the health and well-being of the citizens of Western North Carolina,” reads the initial press release.

“HCA Healthcare is a leading healthcare operator that offers advantages on a scale that would be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve otherwise,” said Mission Health Board Chair John R. Ball, MD. “As important, the newly formed foundation will be life-changing for the residents of our region, providing tens of millions of dollars annually in new support for the most vulnerable.”

In a press release this week, the Board of Directors of Mission Health System, Inc. (MHS) announced the creation of the Dogwood Health Trust (DHT), a North Carolina nonprofit, private non-operating foundation.

As set forth in its articles of incorporation, DHT’s sole purpose is “to dramatically improve the health and well-being of all people and communities of Western North Carolina.”

This purpose continues and both builds upon and expands the 133-year mission of MHS.

If and when the contemplated transaction with HCA Healthcare is completed, MHS intends to convey the net proceeds of its sale to DHT following receipt of all necessary approvals and the development of required organizational infrastructure.

This new region-wide resource would enable significant investments, encourage partnerships and facilitate coordination with others to analyze, understand and address core social determinants of health and well-being for the people and communities of Western North Carolina. The DHT’s goal is to partner with local communities to produce a powerful, positive, long-term impact on the people of Western North Carolina.

The Founding Chair of the Dogwood Health Trust Board of Directors is Janice Brumit, a Western North Carolina native. Brumit was born in Boone, NC and graduated from Appalachian State University. Brumit has strong ties to the people and communities of the region and has spent the last 30 years serving on local and state-wide non-profit boards to improve the lives of its citizens.

She has received numerous awards for her community service, including both the Mountain Child Advocacy Award and the North Carolina Hospital Association Trustee Merit Award in 2017. Her current and prior regional Board service includes chairman of the Mission Health Foundation

Under Brumit’s leadership, the DHT Board will be fully formed over time and embark upon a deliberate, multi-year process to become fully educated about the history and lessons learned from prior healthcare conversion foundations, obtain all necessary approvals for operation, develop appropriate staff and infrastructure for DHT and carefully assess the strengths and the needs of all populations and communities within our region.

DHT will then prioritize these needs, identify collaborative strategies to address them using communities’ existing strengths and seek partnerships with others to implement its long-range strategic plan. Grant funding for approved initiatives will most likely not begin earlier than calendar 2020.

Mission Health officials have said HCA’s acquisition could be finalized as early as October or the end of 2018 or the beginning of 2019.

Since the first announcement, officials have continually said the new foundation will not be funded with any money currently in the Highlands-Cashiers Hospital Foundation.

To solidify that stance, in early June, Mission Health representatives Ron Paulus, CEO and Jackie Medland of Highlands-Cashiers Hospital reiterated that the Highlands-Cashiers Hospital Foundation no longer needed to focus on “keeping the doors open” at the hospital. As such, it could “redefine itself and use its money as it sees fit.”

As per a statement Wednesday, June 6, Rowena Buffett Timms, SVP, government and community relations with Mission Health said H-C Hospital Foundation will not be required to use funds to satisfy any remaining debt at Highlands-Cashiers Hospital prior to HCA’s final acquisition.

“Mission Health will satisfy its debts as a part of the transaction’s closing procedure,” she said. “As we have said, the Highlands-Cashiers Foundation Board will need to redefine its goals and purpose for the remaining funds since their efforts will no longer be dedicated to giving funds to Highlands-Cashiers Hospital. One option the Board is considering is addressing healthcare disparities in the community.”

When Mission Health took over Highlands-Cashiers Hospital it was $6 million in debt. In a little over four years, it reduced that debt to $1 million.

Timms also said it is important to reiterate that Mission Health is committed to ensuring that donor gifts to the H-C Foundation have been and will always be used for the purpose intended when donors made their gifts.

“To the extent donor funds have already been used, they have already gone to serve Highlands-Cashiers Hospital and the community exactly as the donor intended. With respect to gifts that have not yet been used, the donor will have the choice of rolling those funds over to be used for the Highlands-Cashiers Foundation’s new purposes or to have those funds returned to them,” she said.

An announcement discussing more about the DHT is planned for Sept. 30. In the meantime, DHT is seeking applications from potential Board members. Criteria established for DHT Board Members and a formal application process will be available at: www.DogwoodHealthTrust.org on or before August 1, 2018.

By Kim Lewicki

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