Dogwood Health Trust, the foundation created to disburse the profits of the sale of Mission Health, is required to host an annual public meeting. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic the meeting was hosted via Zoom this week.
About 600 people virtually attended Dogwood Health Trust's first annual public meeting.
Janice Brumit, chair of the Dogwood board, reports the foundation has given out about $40 million in total across the 18-county region it covers including the Qualla Boundary.
“We feel that $40 million is a pretty respectable number. We certainly plan to do better next year,” says Brumit.
That figure is under the $50 million that Dogwood had planned to spend, but COVID-19 changed everything, according to Brumit. She say that next year the foundation will spend $65 million.
The foundation promised $10 million specifically for needs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic in March. Brumit says so far $8.5 million has gone to COVID-19 testing, PPE, and wi-fi hot spots.
“We’re going to save a bit of that money for a winter surge and I think that unfortunately, right now we are in that surge,” says Brumit.
Brumit explained that the foundation’s strategic plan has chosen four areas to focus on: housing, employment, education and health. Board members Sarah Thompson, Casey Cooper and Dawna Ledbetter-Goode spoke about the strategies for each goal with questions moderated by UNCA Professor Darren Waters.
Dogwood leaders faced questions from the community about a variety of topics not related to the pandemic, including how it’s working with the independent monitor hired to track HCA’s compliance with terms it agreed to when it purchased Mission Health.
Brumitt says that Dogwood looked into the concerns raised by the Independent Monitor, Gibbins Advisors, and brought those to the North Carolina Attorney General’s office.
“Though our oversight is limited, we understand that the public has great concern,” says Brumit.
Dogwood and the Independent Monitor investigated community concerns such as: sexual assault nurse examiner services at Angel Medical Center, transitional care services at Transylvania Regional Hospital and HCA’s charity care policy. Brumit says ultimately Dogwood reported that HCA hadn’t violated the terms of the purchase agreement in any of these 2019 cases.
Additionally, Dogwood says it has brought up a 2020 issue with surgical care services at Blue Ridge Hospital to HCA and the Attorney General.
During the meeting, Board member Dawna Goode-Ledbetter also discussed how Dogwood has focused on diversity, equity and inclusion through their $1 million racial equity community grants.
“We have also awarded about $600,000 to improve racial equity in education. Especially in Asheville which has one of the largest racial equity education gaps in the country,” says Goode-Ledbetter.
Another question from the community asked if the board was required to spend $75 million this year based on an IRS regulation to spend 5 percent of the $1.5 billion valuation. Brumit explained that because the funds were not all disbursed to the foundation at one time so this rule does not apply.
Brumit also announced that Dogwood has hired a new Vice President of Impact, William Buster. He is starting the job next week. Dogwood also recently named Susan Mims, Interim CEO since Antony Chiang stepped down in September.
Here’s a breakdown of how Brumit explained Dogwood’s grants, investments and loans this year:
There is the $5 million annual commitment to substance abuse (only $3 million has been distributed so far but Dogwood says it is on track for the year); $3.7 million was spent on immediate needs and opportunities grants; $10 million has been allocated to COVID-19 pandemic spending ($8.5 million spent so far); $1 million has been allocated for racial equity grants (first round just closed and will be announced soon); $1.5 million allocated for census incentives. Brumit says Dogwood will award close to $7 million in other grants before end of the year. That’s $19.7 million in grants and community investment so far (including the $7 million its $26.7 million.)
Then Brumit says Dogwood deployed $12 million for bridge loans for business and nonprofits applying for PPP funds and rapid recovery plus $4.5 million in investments and loan guarantees to stand up testing and PPE production.
Dogwood also spent $500,000 through the Leverage grant program to bring in an estimated $8 million in outside funding.
That’s $43.7 million not including the expected $2 million for substance abuse and $1.5 million for COVID-19 by the end of 2020.
The full recording of the meeting will be on Dogwood’s website in the next few days and the annual report will be available in December.