LMH asked to donate $75,000 to new Chamber of Commerce economic development campaign

Lawrence Memorial Hospital leaders are being asked to improve the health of the community’s economic development coffers.

LMH’s board of trustees on Wednesday formally received a request from the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce for a $75,000 donation to an upcoming economic development fundraising campaign.

Board members delayed taking action on the request until next month when they hope to receive more details from the chamber on what the campaign would specifically fund.

But leaders at the hospital urged board members to strongly consider the request.

“Job creation and economic development benefit LMH greatly,” Gene Meyer, president and CEO of LMH, told the board. “I think we all are concerned about the 30 percent of people who commute outside the community every day. Those are people who are more difficult for us to serve.”

The chamber is asking for the hospital to donate $25,000 a year for the next three years. According to a letter sent by the chamber, the campaign has an annual goal of $325,000.

The chamber also is asking Meyer to serve as a co-chair for the fundraising campaign.

Chamber officials previously have said they are creating specific goals related to business retention and attraction efforts, along with other economic development programs, that will be supported by the campaign. More of those details are expected to be presented to hospital leaders next month.

In other LMH news:

• For more than a year now, Lawrence city commissioners have said they want a “wellness center” to be a part of the city’s proposed northwest Lawrence recreation center. But they’ve had a difficult time painting a picture of what that wellness center may include.

Come to find out, defining a wellness center isn’t so easy for a hospital to do either.

Board members were told Wednesday that hospital leaders are starting over on what it may want to include in a wellness center at the recreation center.

“We really need to re-look at it and throw out our past assumptions on it,” said Karen Shumate, the chief operating officer for LMH.

Shumate said the hospital had started talking with physicians and other providers about what kind of services could be offered at the center. She said the hospital planned to meet with other stakeholder groups too.

Previously, hospital leaders had said the center could include diet and exercise classes, one-on-one wellness coaching, physical/occupational and speech therapy services, sports performance enhancement programs and various screenings.

Current plans for the recreation center, which is slated for an area just north of the northeast corner of Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway, include 7,000 square feet for a wellness center.

LMH hasn’t yet made a commitment to lease the space, but it expects to have a report for the board to consider in June.

• Meyer said hospital leaders now believe LMH will lose $750,000 in revenue this year as a result of the sequestration cuts related to the federal budget debate in Washington, D.C. Meyer said the hospital will make adjustments to its operating budget, which is about $200 million for 2013, to account for the loss of revenue.

• Board members gave preliminary approval to make an offer to purchase the former Douglas County ambulance station that is adjacent to the hospital.

The building is owned by Douglas County, but the hospital has been using it rent-free for the last several years to store equipment and as temporary office space during renovation projects.

A recent appraisal puts the value of the building at $275,000. Meyer said in the near term the hospital will continue to use the building for storage purposes. But he said the hospital at some point may look to start a “semi-retail” pharmacy that would be designed to serve the needs of LMH employees. Meyer said if the hospital operated its own pharmacy for employees that it likely could save significant money on its health insurance costs.