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Published: Thursday, 2/7/2002

Regulations thwart public accountability

I agree substantially with Patrick Desmond's Jan. 28 letter “Hospitals, Enron, and the economy.” He asserts that Luke Shockman's article on the financial performance of our community's hospital systems was “irrelevant to the current financial position” because only 1998-2000 data were used for the analysis.

Public accountability was thwarted because federal regulations allow these organizations several extensions that delay submission of “Form 990” for a year. Therefore, Mr. Shockman had no choice but to use old data. Moreover, lack of clarity and uniformity of “Form 990” causes multiple interpretations and confusion.

The massive economic turmoil created by Enron's financial reporting practices should act as a wake-up call to hospital systems. In fact, the Enron of the not-for-profit hospital industry occurred several years ago when a major Pennsylvania system declared bankruptcy, leaving huge indebtedness and causing significant damage to communities.

The public would be best served if hospital systems shared timely and meaningful annual reports, especially given their tremendous economic impact. Locally, Mercy Health Partners and Promedica are now the largest employers, overtaking DaimlerChrysler. Each has annual net revenues exceeding $600 million. Catholic Healthcare Partners, the parent of Mercy Health Partners, has net revenues of $2.6 billion.

Annual reports should be publicly distributed no later than five months following the end of each fiscal year. They should include pertinent financial information from latest audited financial statements; community service information; quality of care information, and major annual objectives.

The article “Toward Full Disclosure” (Modern Healthcare, Feb. 19, 2001) succinctly expresses the issue: “Hospitals, which are among the major beneficiaries of tax-exempt municipal bonds, are also some of the worst offenders when it comes to ongoing disclosure.”

Our hospital systems are justifiably proud of their accomplishments. They should embrace improved accountability reporting as an integral part of their corporate responsibilities.

DARRYL LIPPMAN

Sylvania

Editor's Note: Mr. Lippman is a health care consultant and former president and CEO of Mercy Health Partners.

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Americans are asking about the people captured by the United States and transferred to Guantanamo Bay. The International Committee of the Red Cross has met with these detainees at the request of the U.S. government. Such visits are made with the full cooperation of the U.S. government, which makes provision for the ICRC to meet with detainees captured by our armed forces.

The ICRC is a neutral, independent organization and guardian of the Geneva Conventions - international treaties that provide humanitarian standards of behavior during conflict.

The Geneva Conventions stipulate that the ICRC visit captured combatants or prisoners of war to assure their treatment is humane, define the standards to be met, and require that a competent court rule on whether the detainees are, or are not, POWs. This helps protect captured combatants of all nations, including the United States. ICRC visits are not, however, a shield against the consequence of law.

As specified by the Geneva Conventions, the ICRC talks with prisoners about their conditions of detainment, registers them so their families and governments know where they are, and allows them to write to their relatives. The ICRC discusses concerns with the detaining authorities but does not publicly discuss its findings.

All members of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, including the American Red Cross, are committed to and bound by fundamental principles including impartiality, neutrality, and independence, which apply equally in times of war and peace. They enable the Red Cross to carry out its humanitarian work wherever needed, including Guantanamo Bay.

I am proud that our government has signed and ratified the Geneva Conventions and that we comply with these treaties by asking the ICRC to visit the detainees. This provides an opportunity to demonstrate our respect for the rule of law.

LUCIANNE PHILLIPS

Executive director

American Red Cross, Greater Toledo Area Chapter

West Central Avenue

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A survivor of the WTC tragedy recently appeared on CNN news. This person was burned terribly over most of her body. When the do-gooders want to cry foul play for those terrorists being held captive by us, have them take a look at this poor person who has suffered through no fault of her own. These criminals deserve no rights. They are what they are: terrorists and killers.

FRANK KEKES, JR.

West Sylvania Avenue

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I totally support Mayor Ford's new initiative to renovate Southwyck Shopping Center. Making use of what we already have is a good move for Toledo economically, environmentally, and socially. The area already has good traffic and is set up for mall traffic. No fields or woodlands or national monuments, will be disturbed in the process.

Keeping new business coming into Toledo will go a long way toward cushioning against layoffs at certain local plants that got in on tax breaks in hopes of providing jobs for Toledoans. Keeping new jobs accessible will go a long way toward helping families already strained for time and money.

MONICA BIRSEN

Bowling Green

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My husband and I enjoyed our “fireside chat” last week, along with the golden silence of nothing but the flickering of candles throughout the house and the crackling of the fireplace. We were among the unfortunate ones who lost power in the latest area storm. Although ours came back on 32 hours after it went out, we realized many were still without heat and lights. We enjoyed “roughing it” for a while and could have done it a little longer if necessary, but we certainly appreciate the men and women who have worked so tirelessly to get us back to normalcy.

Thanks to all of them for their sincere dedication to helping those who would be lost without them. They are the latest heroes of our time!

DOROTHY PAKULSKI

Imperial Drive

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It was reported that some religious leaders dislike interfaith services because they “validate people that worship other gods by saying they're just like us, when they're not.”

There is one God. Various religions worship this same God, by whatever name - God, Allah, Yahweh, Jehovah, Creator, Higher Power.

Our churches, temples, and mosques must guard against a country club mentality that would judge those who don't “belong.” God is not a commodity, and no religious group can corner the market.

Worshipping with people of other faiths does not require sacrificing one's own beliefs. It is simply an opportunity to join hands and praise the author of diversity.

BARBARA NELSON

Wauseon

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Abuse, neglect, starvation, drugs, violence, and incarceration. These are only a few of the things some children who attend Toledo Public Schools live through each day. Many children come to school with soiled clothes, often begging teachers for food and the affection they are not receiving at home. Even as a teacher at TPS, I cannot begin to understand what these children deal with every day. I do know that trying to educate a child is practically impossible when he or she has experienced something so horrifying.

Next time you wonder why TPS students aren't achieving on proficiency tests, you should ask yourself: What is the real reason this child is struggling?

LISA MILLER

Crestwood Road



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