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Airbags

This Land Is Their Land (Paid For By You and Me)

Imagine you built a structure under non-profit auspices, using financing from a state-backed bond issue. Now imagine that, having built that building, you leased out significant parts of it to for-profit "contractors" who paid you handsomely for the space. Now imagine that you paid all of your redundant top executives well into the six figures, essentially "profit-sharing" without calling it that.

Now imagine you were doing this in a big city, where all your neighbors were paying astronomical property taxes on their homes, while you weren't paying a single dime, essentially making your neighbors foot the bill for your roads, water, police, fire and every city service.

Ladies and gentlemen, you would be Resurrection Health Care.

Although Resurrection didn't build all their hospitals — they acquired them by assuming their debt. Still, they don't pay a nickel in property taxes, and they own some lucrative properties in and around Chicago, including St. Joseph Medical Center in Lincoln Park, Resurrection Medical Center in Edison Park, and St. Mary's and St. Elizabeth's Medical Centers in Wicker Park (that garish building on Division Street by Clemente High School) among others. Since they also pay no city or state taxes, that means that the people around them — small homeowners, small business owners and, ultimately, renters — foot the bill for the huge amount of city services that those hospitals consume. Just thinking about the increased traffic around St. Mary's and St. Joseph's makes one realize how expensive these structures are to their neighbors.

Still, that would be all fine and good since these are hospitals that provide valuable services to their communities — including emergency room services, labor and delivery, etc.

But then again, Resurrection isn't doing this out of the kindness of their heart, hushed little nuns ministering to the poor.

Nope, Resurrection Health Care is an omnipresent $1.5 billion enterprise, which pays its top executives well into the six figures — including Sister Sally Marie Kiepura, the Chairwoman of RHC's board of directors, who between 2003 and 2005 earned just under $1,000,000 at a rate of about $160 an hour. Some vow of poverty. Then again, poverty is relative — Joseph Toomey, the CEO of RHC, raked in $1.6 million in the same time period, at a cool $800 an hour. "Non-profit"?

The cover for their non-profit status, besides their now-token religious affiliation, is that they provide so-called "charity care" to the community. Charity care is a misnomer — they have to provide something for them to be considered a charitable enterprise, don't they? It should be called "mandated community care." And Resurrection is among the most miserly hospital systems in the area, doling out a mere 0.9 percent of their total expenses in charity care — less than one percent. Consider this along with the fact that Resurrection brings in for-profit contractors to provide many direct-care medical services — such as "headache clinics" — and what you have left is an outrageous example of charity care — our charity to a huge corporation and the plutocrats masquerading as health care providers who control it.

St. Mary and St. Elizabeth Medical Center are the greatest outrage, to my mind, because they sit right next to a high school that is notoriously overcrowded and recently accepted a huge influx of students from other high schools. That high school, Roberto Clemente HS, is funded by property taxes. The huge enterprise operating right next door, which paid its top executives nearly $3 million in salary over a three year period, kicks in not one official dime towards the education of those kids. Isn't it part of the community? Why does everybody else have to foot the bill? If it is indeed a "charitable" enterprise, why don't those executives cut their salaries in half and use that money to help out more uninsured people?

Because the non-profit status has become a complete joke. Even from a conservative standpoint, it is outrageous that we, the neighbors of Resurrection hospitals like those in Chicago or even those in the suburbs, such as St. Francis, Westlake and West Suburban, are essentially financing a competitive advantage for RHC over their for-profit competitors. Don't forget, for-profit hospitals often contribute free care to their communities, too — the only difference being they are not required to do so.

Blogger Nancy Scola discusses the issue, which she discovered in her reporting, here.

So while Resurrection acts like a for-profit — excessive salaries, for-profit contractors, aggressive debt collection practices — they have the competitive advantage of paying not a nickel in any sort of tax. What a perfect trick!

The cloak of being a Catholic enterprise is just worse. While I have no doubt in the personal spirituality and even piety of Resurrection's sponsoring women religious and the various clergy employed by RHC, there is hardly any doubt left that it is by no means a Catholic organization. Their lack of ministry to the poor (i.e., their aggressive debt collection practices, lack of real charity care) is the prime example — but how about the alleged union busting that has gone on there?

According to an article by Mike Colias of Crain's Chicago Business, every Democratic member of Illinois' Congressional delegation — including Senators Dick Durbin and Barack Obama — signed a letter urging Resurrection to stop its union-busting tactics and sit down with their workers. Resurrection refused. Senator Obama is taking the issue a step further, appearing in a public event with Resurrection employees trying to organize at an event at the Plumber's Hall in two weeks, Saturday March 3rd.

Yet another example of Resurrection's utter disregard for its neighbors comes in Oak Park, where employees of Resurrection have alleged a pattern of systematic racism and discrimination from their management, all while the hospital seeks to condemn a landmarked building to expand their services. How can they disrespect their community at one instance, and then ask its favor the next? It is flabbergasting.

I am sick and tired of the wealthy and connected getting away without kicking anything in to help protect our very civilization. I am sick and tired of the little guys having to pool our resources and struggle to make sure our communities stay safe and pleasant and clean, while mega-corporations like Resurrection Health Care sit back and laugh at us.

Resurrection has a responsibility to start acting right, or start kicking in. They can't have it both ways.

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Comments

shechemist / February 28, 2007 11:58 AM

I recently turned down a nursing job at a Resurrection Health Care Hospital (St. Francis). Their employee benefits and pay are not in keeping with other area hospitals, and it was one of the worst interviews of my life. Not that I did poorly, I was offered a job at the end of the interview and told I needed to accept in 24 hours, but that the HR and middle management doing the interviewing clearly didn’t give a shit and just wanted to find a body to fill a long empty position. One would think that if they were giving out million dollar bonuses to Sisters they might be able to do better than a 25% match for their 403K and have it vest before 6 years for the folks that are doing the hard work of actually caring for people.

Resurrection’s crappy ‘charity care’ commitment is an open secret in the health care community, something that had been discussed in my nursing policy classes. Advocate, Illinois Masonic in particular, and Children’s Memorial both do a HUGE amount of charity care.

Robert / February 28, 2007 4:39 PM

Carnahan,

I may have missed it, but I assume Resurrection was not available for comment?

It would be interesting to hear their answers to these questions.

What is Resurrection’s response to your claim that they “want it both ways”?

What is Resurrection’s response to your claim that they “refused to stop its union-busting tactics”?

What is Resurrection’s response to your claim that they “refused to sit down with their workers”?

Why didn't they?

What is Resurrection’s response to your claim that they are the “wealthy and connected getting away without kicking anything in to help protect our very civilization”?

What is Resurrection’s response to your assertion that “If it is indeed a ‘charitable’ enterprise, why don't those executives cut their salaries in half and use that money to help out more uninsured people”?

Did you contact Resurrection to get their comment?

I understand if they were not immediately available for comment.

When will you write the follow-up piece going over Resurrections responses to these questions/issues?

RfC / February 28, 2007 6:57 PM

Robert,

Next week.

RfC / February 28, 2007 9:09 PM

Although I can answer some of those right now, if you like. According to the Colias article, RHC says that they don't bust unions, that the the findings of the NLRB are that they've never violated labor law, and that their refusal to sit down with their workers is because they don't recognize the union the workers are organizing with--since this is all based previous reporting, with links provided, and this column is obviously personal opinion, I don't need Resurrection's opinion on my opinion.

But I encourage you to follow those links and see what the original reporting, and Resurrection's responses to those articles, was. That's why I provided the links.

Enjoy.

 

About the Author(s)

Richard F. Carnahan is a true South Side Sox fan who's played a bit part in Chicago politics more than once over the years. Contact him at rfc@gapersblock.com.

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