Monday, August 1, 2011

Red Bird Realities

We lived and worked at Red Bird Mission during what must surely be the most difficult year of its existence. The American economic implosion of 2008-2009 had a devastating effect on donations to the Mission, as well as to the cost of providing services. The truth is that Red Bird had been operating in an inflated position for some time, overextending its ability to provide K-12 education in the same way and draining its reserves in an effort to do so. The Board made one wrenching decision after another: close the elementary school, close the entire school, cut back on staff and expenses to barebones levels. The organization teetered on bankruptcy and pressure on leadership was enormous.

To its credit Red Bird School was able to quickly reorganize, remaining a K-12 facility with some combined classes and reduced amenities (the closure of little-used dorms and reduction in bus routes, for example). Every budget was reevaluated and adjusted; cuts became painful but services remained stable. For my part, it was clear that healthcare services could not be sustained as provided and drastic measures were needed to keep the Clinic in the mountains. Upcoming federal regulations, our reliance on uncertain grants and donations, the difficulty of recruiting medical professionals to Red Bird, and our inability to remain independent given our lack of efficiency of scale meant that Red Bird would need to partner or be contracted to an able provider.

Red Bird Clinic provided me with a wonderful challenge: to provide current services as profitably and lovingly as possible and to find a solution to its long-term viability. After several studies, conversations with possible partners, and listening to local people, we were able to take a proposal to Red Bird’s board for divestiture of its Clinic operations to the Adventist Health System. Medical Director Sharon Fogleman was in full agreement and was happy to let me while away my days working on the details of the plan. In July of 2010 the Red Bird Mission/Clinic Board voted unanimously to give up control of the health ministry it had overseen for 88 years. It had not been easy, but it was so worth it…the Clinic remained in place at Red Bird and the people of the Red Bird Valley continue to receive care there.

I had worked myself right out of a job.

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