An Open Letter to John Duval and Coley Wortham:
Please accept my most sincere congratulations on the occasion of a merger between Children’s Hospital and VCU Children’s Medical Center. You have accomplished today what many before you have only dreamed possible. By marrying two veritable institutions for the betterment of children and children’s healthcare, you have created the cornerstone of what can truly become Richmond’s hospital for children…a hospital for all children. It is no small feat for mergers and acquisitions, given the number of important people who require their just share of money and control. I can scarcely comprehend the financial underpinnings, but I stand in awe of the balance you’ve struck.
Individual and corporate donors who have long supported the Children’s Hospital Foundation can now add their monies to the tax payer dollars of the Commonwealth’s own citizens in support of children’s health and well being. I find it remarkable that we will all be able to take credit for investing in the health of our city’s smallest citizens. More than before though, you will now be charged with the daunting task of providing quality health services in a more efficient manner to many more children than you have served in the past.
To quote Bruce Rubin, MD, who was arguably the most eloquent and the most truth-filled speaker today, “It is about the children.” And I give you my word that I will remind you over and over again that you know this to be true in your hearts. Now you must begin the business of serving more of those children, and in a more meaningful way than either hospital has done alone. If people knew how much pediatric healthcare could be purchased with the dollars spent last year on behalf of the 189,000 patient visits to your two hospitals, I know there would be great surprise.
Nonetheless, today is a new day. If it is not about “bricks and mortar” buildings as we have heard it will not be, let it be about starting. Start somewhere. Take the academic research and the teaching credentials of the university, and build an efficient, premium service healthcare model that every family will choose for their child. Spend the marriage dowry so that more children are served and in a much finer way.
As I conclude my thoughts, I am left with a nagging question that if answered today, offers a response that I would rather not hear. As the mother of four, I wonder if today’s news changes anything for my children in the immediate future. But as you aptly pointed out, today is a new day; and tomorrow will follow. Lead the celebration today because tomorrow, there’s new work to be done. To ensure the success of today’s marriage, you must begin courting the remaining players in the game. If all of Richmond’s children will enjoy the full benefit of a hospital built just for them, then you surely must know that plans are being made to build it… without you.
If today is about the children, and it must be…you must make peace with the reality that your merger cannot accomplish the bricks and mortar Hospital For Children to serve all of our children. So celebrate today, and get back to work tomorrow. Be a part of the forward movement toward ONE hospital for children. You are well schooled in compromise. Make tomorrow a good win for us all by never losing sight of what is true: that it must be about the children. A new day today… on the way to a full service, free-standing hospital for children tomorrow.
Gayle Schrier Smith, MD July 1, 2010