Mercy Cancer Centre is a premier community cancer treatment centre located in the ghetto of a major city. It caters for treatment and management of cancer cases for the members of the public at no cost. Hundreds of underprivileged members of the community and others from outside the locality are undergoing treatment at the centre. A number of these patients visit the centre on appointment with doctors while 30 terminally-ill people are admitted at the facility.
Mercy Cancer Centre depends entirely on well-wishers for all its financial needs. Samantha Peters, the founder, also doubles up as the executive director. She is assisted by a board of directors whose membership is voluntary. Her staff consists of twenty people performing various crucial functions. All the physicians and nurses who provide services to patients are volunteers except for one doctor and a nurse. The salaries of the employees are catered for by the donations the centre receives from individuals, religious organizations and charitable foundations.
For three months now, the centre has not paid any of its employees. Two have already left and the resident doctor wants to quit at the end of the month. The crisis arose when many of the donors pulled out citing financial commitments elsewhere. This followed an audit report that raised queries on the financial management of the facility and which resulted in the firing of the then Finance Manager. Some volunteer doctors are also withdrawing their services because of pressure from their workplaces.
However, a call from Kevin Wiley, the CEO of Tobacco Inc. offering financial assistance may be the solution. The firm is willing to fund Mercy Cancer Centre for two years. The amount would cover the cost of treating cancer patients, paying all employees and all other operations. According to Wiley, the deal would be reviewed after the initial two year period and possibly extended for a longer duration.
But that is where the problem begins. The Mercy Cancer Centre and other health service providers have over the years perpetuated a campaign to dissuade people from tobacco smoking because of the high cancer risks involved. The bruising campaigns have seen Tobacco Inc lose some profits in the country. The call from the CEO of the tobacco giant therefore came as a surprise to Peters.
A few phone calls to board members of the centre revealed that none of them was willing to be associated with Tobacco Inc. Peters is concerned that a number of terminally ill patients at the facility face imminent death unless money is availed to purchase drugs and other essentials. Some members of her board have told her to go ahead and accept the assistance but bear the cross for any backlash from the media, community and other medical facilities.
She has a day to make a final decision. She needs the money to save lives and cater for the expenses of the facility. On the other hand the tobacco industry is a taboo for the medical world and a reputable cancer centre is not expected to promote any tobacco-related activities.
- What answer should Peters give Wiley and why?
- What are the institutional and personal implications of giving (i) an affirmative answer or (ii) a negative answer to Tobacco Inc?
- Should companies dealing with tobacco be allowed to fund health facilities and activities? Why?
- What other funding options would you suggest for Mercy Cancer Centre?