Academic journal article Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies

Whittaker Memorial Hospital

Academic journal article Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies

Whittaker Memorial Hospital

Article excerpt

CASE DESCRIPTION

The primary subject matter is strategy under adverse conditions for a small community hospital. The case examines operational, financial and market factors for strategy development. Issues of governance and stakeholder claims for a non-profit, community organization are also examined. As a student case analysis assignment the case is appropriate for an undergraduate capstone course in business policy presented in the context of strategy for non-profits, single business strategy, or governance topics, and for a senior or master's level course in health case management. While class presentation depends on the instructor's choice of scope of the subjects covered, a full discussion and analysis can be rendered within a 50 minute period. A student should anticipate a 2-3 hour commitment to complete the case questions.

CASE SYNOPSIS

Whitaker Memorial Hospital is a small community hospital created to serve the health needs of the African American community in the early 1900's. The hospital has over time expanded but by the 1980's has experienced declining demand and growing financial problems which result in an attempt to reorganize under Chapter 11. The Hospital Director Dr. Bryant in 1995 has successfully led an attempt to save the hospital from a merger by contesting the authority of the sitting board and pledging to continue the hospital's operation as a community institution.

The case narrates in background the history of a unique American institution, the African American hospital, and traces through the case of Whitaker Memorial the complexities of surviving in a changed society. The case presents the hospital's difficulties with management, operations, and changed market conditions. As the original "community" of the East End has changed by 1995 the issues of "Who is the 'community' served by the hospital?" and "Who has a claim to govern the community hospital?" are raised and resolved in the narrative.

BIRTH AND REBIRTH OF A COMMUNITY HOSPITAL

At the 1993 dedication of the W. Bernard Howard, Jr. Wing of the hospital the man for whom the new facility was named expressed to those assembled the collective worry of the East End community, "We hope the situation is turned around. Personally, I am optimistic about the future of the hospital. We pray that the hospital will get even better as we move into the next century."

The situation in 1993 was that the hospital was in bankruptcy. By November 1995 when the new Executive Director Dr. Bryant took change after a divisive battle over direction and control of the hospital, mounting financial problems were mitigated only by the determination of the Director, the new board, and the community that the hospital would not close. Dr. Bryant's commitment was that he would develop a strategy to save a long time, cherished community institution.

Whitaker Memorial Hospital was founded in 1908 in the East of Newport News. The community was growing as a transportation hub for shipping coal mined in the Ohio Valley to an industrializing nation and the concomitant demand for new ships built by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company. Excluded from the nearby "white" hospitals, four African American physicians pooled their resources to rent a four room wood building to create one of the nearly twenty "colored" hospitals that populated a "Jim Crow" nation. In 1914 the Whitaker Memorial Association was established as a community, non-profit organization to provide governance and financial support to the hospital. The By-Laws provided that a Board of Trustees would be elected to oversee the hospital and maintain community control. Within a year the Association had raised funds to construct a hospital building in the East End. Like many of the African American hospitals a School of Nursing was created to train needed personnel. When it closed in 1932 the Nursing School had graduated 112 nurses. …

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