The effort to get the the $825,000 hospital levy passed continued this weekend with a Q&A session at the Quincy Public Market.
Led by hospital chief Glenda Bishop, the Q&A session was mostly As at the beginning, with more Qs toward at the end, touching upon the key aspects of why it’s important to get the word out and get the levy passed.
“The previous two levies that passed, they passed not because we had this huge budget for advertising, or signs, or town forums or electronic billboards,” Bishop said during the session that was also broadcast via Facebook Live. “It passed because people like you talked to your friends, your family and made sure ballots got mailed.”
This becomes especially important when one considers that the levy also appeared in the primary ballot and it failed by a scant 17 votes.
“What happened in August? I want to answer that question for you,” Bishop said at the start of the session.”
The levy required 60 percent voter approval and got 65.5 percent, but it still did not pass, as it also required a voter turnout that was equal or higher than 40 percent of the turnout of the last general election.
Since the last general election was in a presidential election year, the percentage represented a larger number than usual, given that more people vote for president.
About 4,630 people voted in the general election of November 2020, so the levy needed 40 percent of that, or 1,852 votes, to validate, Bishop said. This last August, though, 1,664 people voted.
“Any other year, that’s a pretty reasonable turnout,” Bishop said. “Any other year, it would have been a passing measure and it would have been deal done.”
Not this year. Not even a second way to validate proved fruitful.
“If you’re only talking about Yes votes, you only need to have 60 percent of the 40 percent,” Bishop said. In other words, the levy win could have been validated if the Yes votes amounted to 60 percent of 1,852 votes.
“We needed 1,111 Yes votes,” Bishop said. “And we came up short by 17 votes. Seventeen votes. I probably had 17 people say to me, ‘We were on vacation,’ or ‘Oh, my ballot is still sitting on the kitchen counter.’”
“So it’s all a matter of voter turnout,” Bishop added.
The hospital’s Tom Richardson shared a look back to 2017 and the start of the effort to bring the hospital’s debt back down from about $5 million.
Between levies, grants, and the hospital’s own decision-making in restructuring its administrative team, the debt is at the lowest point it has been since 2006, at about $931,000.
The goal is to bring the hospital back to the black, and the levy is part of that effort, he added.
Levy measures passed in 2020 and 2018 have helped eliminate 34 percent of the debt, Bishop added.
“That deserves a round of applause for the voters,” she said.
This year’s levy will provide “that last push” to eliminate the remaining debt,” Bishop added.
Bringing the hospital into the black would mean a major step toward making another monumental decision, she added. Building a new hospital
In the meantime, the hospital has received help from the Paycheck Protection Program and from the CARES Act, but some of these monies were restricted from going into the hospital’s general fund.
“The CARES dollars had an impact and will have an impact in the future,” Bishop said, “But it did not necessarily play a part in debt reduction.”.
Other sources included the Small Hospital Improvement Program, SHIP, with ties to the state department of health, did not have the same restrictions, and allocated $83,000 for the Quincy Valley Medical Center.
Those monies allowed for a upgrade of the radiology department’s equipment and rooms.
Furthermore, Bishop credited Microsoft’s Lisa Karstetter for helping the hospital score philanthropic grants, from the Redmond-based software giant, as well as hand sanitizer and N95 masks.
Another point that underscored the importance of keeping the hospital strong was the fact that it has tended to 633 additional people so far this year than around the same date last year.
“That’s huge,” Bishop said. “That says to me that we are making some progress in consumer confidence.”
Bishop allowed herself a little bit of optimism, wondering aloud what the next steps would be for a medical center with a passed levy and a pile of debt in the rearview mirror.
“First thing we do is make sure we don’t get in that position again,” she said.
The next thing is, building a hospital that lasts for many generations of Quincy residents ahead, she said.
Asked how people could help, Bishop reiterated:
“Tell your friends, and tell your friends to tell their friends.”