Hospital budget raises concerns

Community member believes TMH spends too much on advertising

By JOSH NICHOLS
Daily Press writer
This year, The Memorial Hospital has spent $87,000 on advertising, and is budgeted to spend $93,000 by the end of 2001.
Some members of the community say this advertising expense by TMH is too much. But, hospital spokespeople argue that without advertising, the community will be unaware of hospital wellness programs.
At the November Board of Trustees meeting, TMH community relations director Pam Thompson argued that compared to hospitals throughout the nation, TMH's advertising budget is conservative. And money spent on advertising is designed to promote health throughout Moffat County.
In a Powerpoint presentation, Thompson outlined how TMH budgets .6 percent of its gross revenue for advertising, compared to 2 percent of the gross revenue spent by several other hospitals.
These include Yampa Valley Medical Center, Vail Medical Center, Rangely Hospital and Parkview Medical Center, according to Thompson.
If TMH were to use 2 percent of its gross revenue, it would spend $265,000 per year on advertising $172,000 more than it currently spends.
Community member John Ponikvar, who spoke at a board meeting earlier this fall regarding his concerns about the hospital's advertising budget, still believes TMH is spending too much on advertising. In fact, he said the hospital shouldn't be doing any advertising at all.
"Why don't they take that $90,000 and provide health care to people who can't afford any?" he said. "The hospital is the number one advertiser in the community, and it is a tax-supported entity. I think it's ridiculous that a tax-funded monopoly would spend that kind of money on advertising."
Ponikvar said that a good hospital will bring patients in without any kind of advertising.
"Word of mouth will support a good hospital. They already know they're losing 50 percent to Steamboat. They need to look at this and ask why that is. Is it because they're not providing what people need?"
Thompson said, the purpose behind the advertising is misunderstood.
"We're not advertising asking people to come here," Thompson said. "We're advertising to promote community wellness. You're never going to see an ad that says 'please come to our hospital, we need your business.'"
Thompson cited several ad campaigns the hospital has conducted in recent months:
A yellow ribbon campaign in which suicide prevention was promoted in conjunction with Craig Mental Health.
An ad campaign promoting discounted mammograms provided by the hospital.
Informational ads regarding October's National Stroke Awareness Month.
Since the mammogram campaign began, Thompson said 384 women have come in to TMH to be tested.
"I think the advertising works," Thompson said. "The mass majority of people in the community appreciate what we do."
The breakdown of advertising expenses year to date for 2001 is:
Craig Daily Press, $35,000
KRAI Radio, $15,000
K27FM TV, $12,000
Yellow Pages, $10,000
Special Ads, $7,700
Newsletter, $3,000
Web Master, $2,500
On Hold Productions, $1,800
Forty percent of the hospital's advertising budget this year has been applied to newspaper advertising.
According to Thompson, other hospitals surveyed dedicate 55 percent of their budget to newspaper advertising.
Ponikvar said that he believes it does not matter what other hospitals do in regard to advertising.
"If these people want to jump off a cliff, do we have to follow?" he asked.
"I'm not sure the ads are making people feel good when they know the hospital is spending that kind of money."
He also said that a lot of tax dollars are being spent on advertising, instead of being used in other places.
"Ninety-three thousand a year comes out to $254.79 a day," he said. "And that doesn't include what the hospital is paying its community relations director."
Ponikvar doesn't believe the advertising is working.
"They did more advertising than ever last year, and their numbers are down," he said.
But Thompson argued that the ads are serving their purpose.
"We know it's a good hospital and we want people to come here, but we'd rather keep them away by helping them be healthy through wellness advertising campaigns," she said.

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