L+M invites donors to talk about strike, proposed tax on hospitals

New London - Lawrence + Memorial Hospital has invited 750 past and current donors and others to private forums next month to talk to them directly about recent controversial issues, including a proposed property tax on nonprofit hospitals and colleges and last year's labor dispute.

"We want to provide information and give them a chance to share their thoughts with us," Bill Stanley, L+M's vice president for development and community relations, said Wednesday. "Any opportunity we have to interact with the community directly in unfiltered forums is valuable. It's going to be an exchange of ideas."

Thus far, more than three dozen people have said they would attend one of the "invitation only" forums, scheduled for May 8 and 28 at the hospital. In invitation letters sent April 14, Stanley said the forums are being held because "sometimes it's best to share information directly with the community so that it gets to you and other friends of the hospital without being misconstrued, distorted or filtered."

Among issues that he and Bruce Cummings, president and chief executive officer, will discuss will be the bill pending in the General Assembly that would enable municipalities to levy property taxes on nonprofit hospitals and colleges; offshore insurance companies established by L+M and other hospitals; the strike and lockout in November and December of about 800 nurses and technicians; health care access; and federal, state and local government issues impacting hospitals and health care, Stanley wrote.

"We're not looking to stack the forum with cheerleaders and people who are positive supporters of the hospital," he said. "We will state our case to them and listen to their views. It's not going to be a one-way discussion."

Invitations went to those who have donated $1,000 or more in the past year, as well as to those who previously donated but did not do so in the most recent fiscal year, Stanley said. Overall, he said, fundraising has increased in the most recent fiscal year compared to the previous one, he said, but the hospital has been hearing some feedback from donors and others that it wanted to address.

This is the first time L+M has scheduled forums of this kind. Stanley denied a request from The Day to have a reporter attend one of the sessions to write an article about it. Stanley said having a reporter there might make people hesitant to speak frankly.

Depending on the turnout, Stanley said, the hospital may decide to host additional forums. Capacity is limited in the two rooms at the hospital where the forums will take place, he added.

He said the hospital will not ask attendees to take any actions to support the hospital's positions on any of the issues pending in the legislature or other governmental bodies.

"We're not trying to enlist volunteer lobbyists," he said.

j.benson@theday.com

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