by RON TAMACCIO || There are two legislative initiatives in the South Carolina General Assembly that, if adopted, will require the trustees of the Greenville Health System (GHS) to use a competitive bidding process to dispose of nearly $4 billion of its assets. Those bills are S. 1026 and H. 4945.
Not long ago, GHS CEO Michael Riordan convinced the hospital’s trustees to agree to sell/ lease those assets to a “shadow” organization called The Strategic Coordinating Organization (SCO) for one U.S. dollar! Yes, you read that correctly – one dollar!
Shortly thereafter, Riordan quit GHS to become CEO of SCO! Critics, including some Upstate legislators, argued Riordan and the trustees did not have the authority to agree to that sale, and filed a lawsuit to prevent it.
The background story surrounding this issue is complex and, consequently, easily distorted. GHS’s so-called “community-based” management – most of whom do not live in Greenville – call it a “political attack” against the hospital by a handful of ill-informed legislators because eight members of the Greenville County Legislative Delegation support these bills.
Most who oppose the legislation – even some members of the Legislative delegation – conveniently overlook the fact that, for many years in the 1960s and 70s, the citizens of Greenville County paid for GHS’ predecessor, Greenville Memorial Hospital. Yes, public tax dollars paid for the hospital! Consequently, many of its assets are rightfully deemed county property.
Because of the chicanery by the trustees as outlined above, and the hyperbole that accompanied it, the sponsors of these bills included provisions:
- Limiting the duties and responsibilities of the current trustees.
- Electing new trustees, and limiting their terms in office.
- Appointing a new, interim President for GHS.
The discussion is further clouded by such terminology as: “Public, Non-Profit,” “Private, Non-Profit,” “Public, For-Profit” and “Private, For-Profit.” Although these terms seem simple, each has a distinctly different effect on the viewpoints and motives of those who operate hospitals under the guidelines associated with each one, and the tax revenue each generates for Greenville County.
Perhaps, if we use the tried-and- true principle of “follow the money,” and then apply “Occam’s razor”, we can sort this out.
First, let’s ask and answer this question: “Which of the key players – GHS executives and attorneys, the local elected reps, and by extension, the citizens of Greenville County – personally benefited from the $1.00 asset sale?”
GHS CEO, Michael Riordan – received a shocking $41 million-dollar, deferred compensation package.
GHS Trustees – at present, the Trustees are unwilling to disclose any information about their compensation arrangements. Certainly, their claim to be “volunteers” is preposterous.
GHS’ top executives and their lawyers – received high six-figure salaries and generous bonuses.
Legislators and the citizens of Greenville County? They received NOTHING!
Occam’s hypothesis: “The least complicated answer is usually the correct answer.”
Finally, let’s make sure these “ill-informed politicians” aren’t simply trying to destroy GHS and hurt its patients because they have nothing better to do than “attack” the current management team.
If that were the case, would they put provisions like these in their bills?
- Provide property tax reductions for residential property owners in Greenville County of up to 45% per year for five or more years.
- Distribute the proceeds of the sale of GHS to projects that directly benefit the citizens of Greenville County,
- Create an endowment for healthcare related training at Greenville Tech and a new USC medical school campus near Greenville.
The conclusion should be obvious. These folks aren’t villains. They are simply trying to protect the interests of their constituents. That is their duty and their responsibility.
They deserve praise, not condemnation!
Ron Tamaccio is a retired professional airline pilot and senior military officer residing in Greenville, S.C.