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Setting the record straight

18 Sep 2016

By: Cheryl Wolfe, President and CEO

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The local publication Salem Weekly recently printed a front page article about Salem Health and its finances. It contained some gross inaccuracies and has created some incorrect perceptions that I feel compelled to set right.

It’s my goal that Salem Health be transparent about what we do, why we do it and how we do it. As an organization, we haven’t always done this well. But there is nothing to hide, in fact, I think we have a lot to brag about. I am incredibly proud of this organization and I intend to do more to shed light on the good things that happen here.

I want to have an honest conversation about what Salem Health offers the Willamette Valley and why we run things the way we do. The conversation should be based on accurate information. Here are some key points in response to inaccuracies raised in the Salem Weekly article:

  • Contrary to what the article stated, I don’t earn $1.4 million. My salary is significantly less than that: I receive $553,600 in base pay, with a potential incentive increase of up to 25 percent that is approved by the board and based on meeting specific goals. My salary is set the same way all salaries at Salem Health are set, a combination of market rates and my experience level. And, I do not set my salary – the board does.
  • As a not-for-profit organization, we take every penny not needed for operations and reinvest it back into the community through updated equipment and facilities, or by filling gaps in service to meet community needs. Salem Health does not have shareholders or owners, therefore all profit goes back into the community in some way. We have an all-volunteer board, most of whom live in this community. They make the final decisions about how money is spent on behalf of those we serve. The recently opened therapy playground is a good example of the way we use extra income for the good of the community.
  • The cash we have in the bank, about $500 million, sounds like a lot, but serves two very important and necessary purposes: 1) About 50 percent constitutes our debt payment guarantee on Building A; 2) The remainder is the amount needed to operate for 300 days (called “cash on hand”). Cash on hand is simply one indicator of financial strength and is something financial institutions look at to determine bond ratings, interest rates, etc. Having this sum of money at our disposal is a positive thing; it allows us to fund the many things we plan to do for our community in the future.

Salem Health is built on the mission of improving the health and well-being of those we serve. The Board’s decisions about our finances are ruled by this overarching principle, and it is the motivation for what we do. This reality isn’t always clear to those outside our walls, and can get lost in misinformation or politics. So, if you hear something that is not correct, please use this information to facilitate meaningful dialogue.

My hope is that we can stay focused on our mission, and continue to help the community see and experience us as a valued asset that will be here when they need it.

Thank you for all that you do to make Salem Health an organization that we can be proud of, dedicated to acts of compassion. I believe we are building a legacy that will stand as a beacon in the Willamette Valley for a long time. If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.