By Jenny Neyman
Central Peninsula Hospital’s mission is to be a “community-nurtured organization dedicated to promoting wellness and providing high-quality health care” in its service area, but its practice of donating money to nonprofit organizations and sponsoring various community events has some in the community questioning just how far promotion of community wellness should go, and whom should receive that support.
Financial support to one organization in particular, the Kenai River Sportfishing Association and its Kenai River Classic fishing event, has raised eyebrows over the hospital’s practice of giving financial support to nonprofits, when the organization that runs the Kenai Peninsula Borough-owned hospital, Central Peninsula General Hospital, Inc., is a nonprofit itself.
“I’d like to know why CPH is such a vehicle for patronage, donating to various area entities as it does. Shouldn’t such contributions be channeled through the borough assembly? It would seem that whatever money CPH is spreading around is indeed public money. The hospital is publicly owned, isn’t it?” said John Nelson, of Soldotna. “Where is the justification of the hospital, which is a publicly owned entity, being given some kind of unaccountable ability to donate that kind of money to God knows whom? I mean, I don’t care if it’s the food bank or Kenai River Watershed Forum. What business do they have using hospital funds for that?”
CPGH, Inc. spends $75,000 to $100,000 a year in sponsoring community events and donating to nonprofit organizations, said Tom Boedeker, president of the CPGH, Inc., board of directors. The money comes from hospital operations, not tax dollars, Boedeker said. Though the hospital has received a subsidy of public funds in the past, he said that it is self-supporting now — as of July 1, no tax dollars go to support operation of the hospital. The borough owns the land and the facility, but the hospital’s operations pay the entirety of the bond debt on the hospital, as well as all maintenance costs for the facility, Boedeker said.
“There is not a nickel of tax money going into the operation of the hospital,” Boedeker said. “And people say, ‘Oh, you are getting tax funds because you don’t pay a lease payment.’ And I suggest paying $3.1 million dollars for a bond payment that’s the borough’s obligation, and taking care of all the maintenance and upkeep of the building, which is typically a landlord’s expense, it’s quite a significant lease payment.”
Supporting community health
CPGH, Inc. is a nonprofit organization, but it’s a private nonprofit corporation and engages in charitable giving just as other corporations do, Boedeker said.
“If you have a large business in your community and they never contribute to any community events or help support the community, everybody says, ‘Well, they’re not community-minded.’ We are a very large industry in this community. We’re $100 million in cash flow. There is no other business in this area of that size that people do not expect them to participate in community activities and donate to community events,” he said.
Some past recipients of CPGH, Inc., financial support include, in 2008: $15,000 for the Southcentral Foundation to assist in the development of a pediatrics subspecialty distribution plan, $7,500 for the Kenai River Brown Bears to support a breast cancer awareness sporting event, $20,000 to Bridges Community Resource Network to provide a feasibility study for building a sports dome on the central peninsula, $10,000 to the United Way, $25,000 to support Soldotna Community Playground construction, $12,000 for the Boys and Girls Club and $10,000 to the Kenai River Professional Guide Association to support the Wounded Warrior fishing program. In 2007, funding included: $1,000 to the Soldotna Rotary Club, $10,000 to the Boys and Girls Club, $1,500 to Soldotna High School for student health and safety programs, $2,000 to Bridges for rape defense education, $1,500 to the Alaska Academy of Family Physicians, and $1,000 to the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank.
Boedeker said funding is primarily for events and organizations that support and promote health and wellness in the community.
Nelson said he doesn’t take issue with many of the organizations receiving funding, although support for the guide’s association struck him as out of line with supporting health and wellness on the central peninsula. Nelson said he’s concerned with the larger issue of why the hospital is donating at all.
“The Wounded Warrior program, I have absolutely no idea why they would support something like that. Not that it’s a bad venture, but what does it have to do with CPH?” said Nelson, adding that many of the participants in the program, which gives injured servicemen and women an opportunity to fish the Kenai River, are not from the central peninsula. “It’s a total misuse of hospital funds, as far as I can see.”
Boedeker said he’s sure arguments could be made against funding any of the organizations CPGH, Inc., does.
“There are some people who disagree with United Way and, so, should we let everybody who objects to United Way control our decisions where we think there’s a community benefit? I don’t think so. There’s no organization that we’ve donated to where you can’t find somebody in this community who thinks that’s inappropriate,” he said.
Boedeker said there’s a corporate policy that dictates donations. Organizations make funding requests, which are considered by the hospital administration.
“I’m not aware of a situation where we’ve ever gone out and said, ‘Hey, we want to donate.’ Organizations come and contact us to contribute to community events,” Boedeker said.
The CPGH, Inc., board reviews the hospital’s budget and financial operations and is aware of donations being made, but those decisions are made by hospital administration, he said.
“Basically, we leave that up to the discretion of the (chief operating executive). Otherwise, you’re sitting here looking at board time with every little request,” Boedeker said.