Pill Hill follies
While most folks were enjoying the holiday weekend, a couple of items relating to OHSU made the O.
One was a screamingly funny editorial yesterday about how the institution's aerial tram [rim shot], like its new health club building in the SoWhat district, is a smashing success. Whoever wrote that one must have joined the rest of us and cancelled his or her subscription to the paper, because he or she missed the story two months ago in which the highly overpaid head of the organization declared a fiscal crisis, and talked ominously about some sort of 20-month period, at the end of which he hinted that the place might be out of cash.
That being the situation on the hill -- with the med school selling off its graduate campus to raise money, and putting its plans for a glorious new campus on the Schnitzer property on indefinite hold -- the ridership figures for the tram would seem like mighty cold comfort. Even if they're real.
I remember when the O editorial page (overseen by the spouse of an OHSU flack, I kid you not) was pushing the Goldschmidt-Katz-Williams-Hoffman propaganda line that SoWhat would be the "linchpin" of the state's economic future. Ten thousand biotech jobs, and all that. Now that it's clear that the soulless condo jungle and mud pit is nothing like what was promised, they've just changed the tense on their editorial from the future tense to the present, without regard to the facts. Farce of the lowest order.
Given the mess that the condo market's in these days, you wonder how the developers down there can make the payments on their construction loans. If there's one thing the tram isn't creating, it's positive cash flow.
The other big OHSU news, of course, was that they lost their big lawsuit. On Friday the state Supreme Court threw out as unconstitutional the obscene $200,000 liability cap that OHSU docs have tried to hide behind after they commit malpractice. The OHSU boys and girls are screaming that the ruling is going to bring all of state and local government crashing down, but that seems unlikely. The folks who are most worried about huge liabilities are the docs, not the street sweepers and park rangers.
As some of the justices on the court complained, this is something that the legislature should have taken care of a long time ago. Even if it's going to take a constitutional amendment to get this fixed, the legislature is where that process ought to start.
In theory, state lawmakers could attend to this in their upcoming regularly scheduled "special" session. For one thing, a $2 million cap, automatically indexed for inflation, could be in place by this coming spring. But alas, that would require a degree of responsiveness and professionalism that many of the members of the legislature do not appear to have.
Maybe they thought that the court would rule in OHSU's favor, and they could wash their hands of it. But now it's clear that that isn't going to happen. The court threw it right back in their laps.
While they're messing around with it, good for the malpractice victims who might actually get their due from the money-obsessed tramsters. As Granny Bogdanski used to say, "God don't punish with a stick."