Last week, Dogwood Health Trust confirmed to BPR it has already started hosting listening sessions in Western North Carolina to learn about the community.
While the Mission Health-HCA sale that would create the Dogwood Health Trust is not yet finalized, details are emerging about Dogwood Health Trust’s listening sessions.
Jon Ward, board member of Mitchell-Yancey County Habitat for Humanity says he was invited to the very first listening session held on December 3rd along with about 25 other nonprofit leaders at the Burnsville Community Center.
“Overall, I felt like it was positive in that it gave them information that they needed to have,” says Ward, who is also a member of the SEARCH committee. “They need to build a lot of knowledge about what the real strengths and weaknesses are in the rural counties where they have hospitals and other facilities.”
Ward says they were asked what is unique about their area, what the strengths of the area are and what barriers currently stop them from addressing local social determinants. He hopes Dogwood board members will take their time to learn about the different issues of each community.
Lori Gilcrist, director of Rural Education Partners of Mitchell County, was also present at the meeting. Gilcrist says she’s concerned that this meeting was all of the normal players in her county’s nonprofit sector.
“Though I do not at all question the good intentions, I have many concerns about the process and the assumptions upon which that process was devised and is based,” says Gilcrist in an email.
“To have a foundation board focused on the interests of WNC communities, it must not only be uncompromised by friendships at Mission/HCA, as many have pointed out, it must be uncompromised by alliances among all the usual well meaning suspects in WNC philanthropic and nonprofit communities. All the ways we have well meaningly failed to have diversity and inclusion in our service through philanthropy and the nonprofit community must be recognized and addressed.”
Janice Brumit, chair of Dogwood Health Trust, has now confirmed to BPR another a listening session was held last week at the Cherokee Museum. Brumit adds future sessions are scheduled for Brevard and Hendersonville in January.
"We look forward to continuing to meet with small groups of nonprofit leaders to learn more about the people and communities they serve," says Brumit in a press release.
Mayor Patrick Taylor of Highlands has been a vocal critic of the current version of the Mission Health-HCA deal. For him, Dogwood’s listening sessions seem premature until the sale is final.
“There will be a period when that will be very helpful but at this point I just can’t understand why that would be going forward when I think that they should be making sure that their process is solid and sound,” says Taylor.
The Dogwood Health Trust Board has been under fire for a lack of racial and gender diversity as well as a lack of transparency. Critics also wants to make sure the board is representative of the 18 rural counties that make up the Mission Health System.