This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on December 31, 2007 6:26 AM. The previous post in this blog was Would you believe?. The next post in this blog is The only thing they'll touch is your wallet. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Monday, December 31, 2007

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."

Comments (16)

Haven't the Docs spent the last 10 years trying to get a malpractice cap passed in the state legislature? They can't get the votes though.

And I have to say, I'm still hopeful that the South Waterfront will turn into a thriving urban center. But uh, it's going to take more than condos and "biotech" jobs. It's going to take some local entrepenuer opening an "Amazon" type shop in Portland. (Yeah, I'm dreamin.) And whatever happens in the South Waterfront, it likely could have happened without the Tram.

I just moved here about a year ago---where would be a good source for info about OHSU (not their site, not sifting through Oregonian archives)?

Scroll down to the search box in the left sidebar here...


re: the malpractice end. Do you think for a moment that the docs practicing at OHSU don't have their own malpractice insurance? They'd be fools not to. And the parties are going to go back to court and go after the docs individually as well as OHSU and the docs malpractice insurance will kick in. OHSU will, indeed, take it in the shorts - as well they should for their preposterously stupid behavior in this whole case (which has been going on since late 1998).

As for the ridership figures on the floating twinkie, I am utterly baffled. So are they moving people back and forth to the parking lots? If you don't work for OHSU, or are not visiting OHSU for some purpose (patient, visitor), why would anyone really ride the tram. It doesn't go anywhere else. I read that editorial and said "huh?" How do you define success? It ain't making any money.

I've heard some talk (unsourced news stories) that "tourists" are riding the tram. Personally, I believe the numbers are completely fabricated, just like MAX or other mass transit figures.

They may have spun a fairy tale in yesteday's editorial, but the O got it right today when they ripped the chimp a new one. Better late than never.

Come on, guys!

It's a fun amusement ride, and the view from the top is great. Plus, with a Tri-met pass, it's all free!

Also, there is a nice tea kiosk near the upper landing, and a moderately plush lounge for us retired types to read a book on a sunny afternoon.

Go for it!

Do you think for a moment that the docs practicing at OHSU don't have their own malpractice insurance?

Im sure they would, but then why would the hospital even need a cap? There must be some kind of contract that says if the Docs are working for OHSU the hospital is responsible.

Anyone know for sure?

I think it is a state statute, ORS 30.285.

When the boys and girls at the "OH!" spend ink in such a manner it properly called a Freditorial, or Sticklegram. Cause the boss has to pat his drinkin' pals on that arm and tell them it'll be okay.

Pass the Martinis please!


On the malpractice insurance: all the docs will carry it, but the hospitals have to have their own as well. When people sue these, days, they sue everybody who could possibly have been involved in harming them. It's a huge cost driver, as well as the chief reason it's so hard to get health care professionals in rural areas.

Blame the lawyers? Bah, show us how much the premiums were affected by the cap and then point the finger at the insurance company where it belongs. More legitimate malpractice claims go unpursued for lack of a medical expert willing to testify than meritless claims paid. I totally agree with a reasonable cap on specials. No one needs more than they can comfortably live on. 2 Mill is about right.

Blame the lawyers? Bah, show us how much the premiums were affected by the cap and then point the finger at the insurance company where it belongs. More legitimate malpractice claims go unpursued for lack of a medical expert willing to testify than meritless claims paid. I totally agree with a reasonable cap on specials. No one needs more than they can comfortably life on. 2 Mill is about right.

That editorial just spewed more of the deliberate misrepresentations which have ushered along all of SoWa.
And it's as if PDC's and TriMet's staff helped write it.

Calling the Tram and SoWa a success follows the pattern of "if it get's built declare it a success".
Never mind what was supposed to happen, what it costs or the BIGGER question where has the money really been going?

The editorial explains to us how what may seem "wild and crazy" to us little people is really something worthy because "our city has been hard at work planning" it. Smart people on that editorial board.

For the record and not so much success:

1) OHSU is indeed in a self created fiscal mess. If they are claiming they have 20 months to right the ship, odds are it's sinking today.
2) Among other cutbacks, OHSU is cutting back on internal research funding. Contrary to the expansion of biotech research, jobs and venture capital our 100s of millions in public dollars were supposed to trigger.
3) That first SoWa OHSU building is not a research building at all. The editorial claims "Oregon Health & Science University has completed one research building on the South Waterfront".
Anyone who has been paying attention to SoWa knows that first OHSU building in SoWa is not a research building at all. It is an OHSU doctor's owned, tax exempt, clinic, doctors offices, administration offices and a lavish health club with some token components to accommodate a pretense of some future research.
4) 10s of millions in borrowed SoWa Urban Renewal dollars have been channeled (money laundered) to OHSU to help pay their tram share. Millions of dollars in cash payments to OHSU and developers have appeared in SoWa budgets. Those cash payments, under various line items such as jobs accelerator, economic development and biotech research, have grown to over $50 million to OHSU and many millions more to the developers in SoWa.
5) Millions from Parks and PDOT general funds have been diverted to help bail out SoWa.
6) At the same time, SoWa parks, green way, streets and the other pedestrian bridge over I-5 are soaring far over budget and left unfunded.
7) ODOT is warning SoWa at I-5/ Barbur/Macadam road failure is imminent and without the called for road improvements including the I-5 fly over ramp to SoWa a STOP WORK order on SoWa will be coming.
8) Meanwhile many other road system improvements in the immediate area and the Sellwood Bridge replacement await funding.

Yet this editorial lectures that SoWa is a model for having the $1 BILLION Milwaukie light rail and it's new bridge move to the head of the line. Could this advice be any more reckless? Or "wild and crazy"?

There's a punch line in all of this.

Somehow this editorial board deems it a "success" to spend millions on a costly public transit link to a medical center which patients are now discouraged from using?
That's almost funny.

Good sources say that O's Jonathan Nicholas was the primary writer of the mythical editorial. Just another St. Nick story.

Man, this "the tram is a smashing success" crap coming out of the "O" really frosts my muffins. How do they define success? Just by the fact that a lot of people are riding it (ignoring the question about accuracy in ridership figures)? How can that be used as a barometer of success if the tram LOSES MONEY on every boarding?

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