Debt restructuring, Plans for Nutritional Center Take Center Stage at OHSU

At its board meeting last Friday, a plan was approved to restructure its variable rate debt to a more stable structure

December 6, 2011 – Oregon Health & Science University intends to restructure approximately $210 million of its variable rate debt, and replace old auction rate debt with a more stable funding structure following Friday’s board meeting.

Chief Financial officer Lawrence Furnstahl had urged the board to take advantage of favorable conditions -- annual fees for credit will drop by two-thirds, from 1.80 percent to less than .60 percent for a three-year commitment, saving the university approximately $2 million a year.

Praising the proposal, board member David Yaden said it employed an impressive depth and breadth of risk mitigation techniques.

OHSU also has slightly less operating income than projected in July when its 2012 fiscal year began. Furnstahl had anticipated $16.6 million of operating income by November, but instead brought in $14.1 million – with $20 million less revenue offset by $18 million less expense.

He attributed the gap – which closed by over $1 million between September and October – partly to the pace of spending certain federal grants and to a decrease in surgeries at the hospital.

In September, OHSU received a $25 million gift from Bob's Red Mill Natural Foods, based in Milwaukie, to create the Bob and Charlee Moore Institute for Nutritional Wellness Center that will focus on the developmental origins of health and disease, especially as they relate to diet.

“The good news and bad news about academic health centers is we form a committee first,” said Dr. Mark Richardson, dean of the School of Medicine. That committee will create a vision and mission for the institute and prepare a job description for whoever is chosen as its leader.

The institute will focus on inter-professional education and care focusing on maternal diet and fetal health and disease to prevent chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease. It will become one of three such centers nationwide.

“We keep talking about healthcare reform in the country, and we all know that it starts with our nutrition,” said Board Chair Charles Wilhoite.

In other news, Dr. Joe Robertson, OHSU’s president, praised Dr. Jack Clinton, dean of the School of Dentistry and Dr. Michael Bleich – both of whom have assumed other roles.

The School of Dentistry, he said, would not have raised the money to break ground for the Collaborative Life Sciences Building (which will house the new School of Dentistry) had Clinton not raised the philanthropic support. In January, Clinton assumes the role of dean emeritus and will oversee construction of the building. Dr. Gary Chiodo will take over as interim dean.

Robertson also lauded Bleich for making the School of Nursing less Portland-centric and for participating in the national future of nursing report, which garnered greater visibility for the school. Bleich resigned in November following scrutiny by the state Board of Nursing after complaints from graduate students and faculty. He’ll remain on the school’s faculty. His successor has not been chosen.

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Dr. Michael Bleich, as dean of the school of nursing has made significant contributions to strengthening nursing education in Oregon. At a time when nursing leadership in the academic community desperately needs creativity and innovation, Michael was able to provide that for OHSU. I am interested in how OHSU will involve their constituencies in recruiting a new leader for their program. The hospital and nursing community is heavily committed to a strong OHSU academic progam.