MED Forms Committee to Examine Minority-Owned Biz Dealings

By Aisling Maki

The board governing The Regional Medical Center at Memphis has formed an ad hoc committee to review and make recommendations regarding the amount of business the hospital conducts with minority-owned companies.

The committee – comprised of attorney Pamela Brown, Plough Foundation executive director Scott McCormick and the Rev. Keith Norman of First Baptist Church-Broad in Binghampton – was created after the subject of minority business dominated the discussion Wednesday, May 2. The board meeting at the Adams Pavilion, 842 Jefferson Ave., was the second of the year.

When the current administration – led by president and CEO Dr. Reginald Coopwood – first took over leadership at The MED just more than two years ago, the hospital’s supplier diversity spending was a mere 1.3 percent.

The initial focus at that time was creating financial stability for the organization after some turbulent years.

But supplier diversity spending did increase to 2.5 percent in fiscal year 2011, and currently stands at 3.6 percent, a 51 percent year-over-year increase.

“We are strategically working to improve our relationship with businesses within this community, with contract construction and architectural engineering, working with firms in this community of all sizes and levels of diversity,” Coopwood said. “If the board wants to set a hard goal, that’s the board’s decision, but we have to move it in a way that we can manage and that we can deliver without disruption of services.”

But MED board member Anthony Tate made it clear that he was disappointed with the small percentage of goods and services purchased from small businesses and firms owned by minorities, women and disabled veterans.

“Three percent is just regressive in this community,” Tate said.

But Coopwood said the public hospital has struggled to find qualified minority firms able to fulfill many of the necessary contracts, such as those for orthopedic equipment.

“A lot of the things that we purchase to run a hospital aren’t necessarily either distributed or manufactured or can be provided,” Coopwood said. “Before we set a 30, 40 or 50 percent number, we probably need to better understand our spending and areas where our spend is. Those areas that can be delivered by qualified diversity firms – we’re committed to doing it.”

The MED has articulated a goal to increase its diversity vendor participation, awareness, communications and market strategies.

The organization in September hosted the Memphis Minority Business Council (MMBC) membership meeting, and has made a commitment to having the hospital’s purchasing department participate in those meetings.

The MED also sponsored the MMBC Robert Church Awards Luncheon to honor local minority businesses and served as a corporate sponsor for MMBC’s Economic Development Fair, where Coopwood participated in a roundtable discussion about minority economic opportunities.