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UIHC donation plan would inappropriately pressure patients

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | NOVEMBER 05, 2009 7:20 AM

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The idea of asking hospital patients to make donations upon their arrival — as UI Hospitals and Clinics officials apparently considered doing — is like a surgeon placing a tip jar in the operating room.

Nurses and receptionists were reportedly to be trained to hand out letters, provide information, and answer questions regarding patients’ possible donations, a way for “patients to support the hospital in a philanthropic manner,” UI spokesman Tom Moore told the DI earlier this week.

Facing criticism and discontent from hospital staff and other community members, officials decided Tuesday to delay a decision on whether to start handing out the “invitations.” They have not set a date for making a decision.

We applaud officials for delaying the official decision and encourage them to bring the plan to a complete stop.

On Tuesday, UIHC Vice President for Medical Affairs Jean Robillard explained the decision to hospital staff via e-mail.

“We want to take additional time to hear from staff and others who have concerns and to listen to suggestions for how we might improve the program and attain UI Health Care’s philanthropic goals,” he wrote.

While UIHC relies on heavily on private gifts for operation, and Moore told the DI there is “no pressure” on patients to pledge money, the program could make them and their families feel obligated to give.

And some faculty members recognize that burden.

“Many people would perceive the request as one which might mean that if they said no, the kind of care they receive would be less than they otherwise would,” UI law Professor Sheldon Kurtz told the DI.

Rep. Dave Jacoby, D-Coralville, agreed with Kurtz. He said asking for a donation from patients at the beginning of their stays could induce self-consciousness, which would not paint a pleasing picture of UIHC values. He told the DI he doesn’t see the plan as “aligning with the mission of the hospital.”

With a health-care reform bill in the works and everyone struggling through a financial crisis, it is clear that people are trying to pay less for everything, especially the already-high costs of health care. To someone who simply could not afford donation, the pressure to give could be overwhelming. Not giving a donation may even strike guilt within a patient’s family and friends.

While many UIHC staff members and doctors have been reluctant to comment on the plan, dissenters have shown their outright opposition. We hope they are joined by others in a chorus of displeasure with the plan and work to stop it as soon as possible.

While we understand the hospital is not immune to the economic downturn, there are better ways to bring in revenue and even alternative ways of asking for donations.

The UIHC could use its website to raise funds. The UI Foundation allows the public to donate to the hospital online, but making the option more available could help the hospital’s cause. This serves as an open invitation to the community for those inclined to give.

And if nothing else, if officials do indeed decide to give patients letters asking for donations, give it to them upon their release. At least then they can give a donation out of appreciation, rather than donating in fear of insufficient treatment.


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