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Our hospital and its obligations

Debate is intense about building a new county hospital. Many of my patients are asking where I stand. This is my personal perspective.
I think we have a wonderful opportunity to build a great county hospital and enjoy all the extras that a new hospital campus can afford. This includes expanded surgical, emergency, and diagnostic services, room for the latest equipment, and space to make patients and their families very comfortable. A new hospital would be a magnet for new physicians, especially those specialists who need dedicated space and advanced technology.
We have chosen a perfect location for building the new facility out by Interstate 64. The site is large, visible and accessible, three musts for success. Renovation where we are now doesn’t make sense. Our return on investment will be much better if we start brand new where we can grow and be seen.
Harrison County Hospital is already an economic engine for the community with over 400 jobs. Even with our current poor location and sub-optimal physical plant, we are making money. So what is the risk to our county of investing to be better at something we are already very good at?
If HCH doesn’t make the move, someone else will. There are plenty of outside hospitals that would love to take our place in the new location. To put it bluntly, they are lined up to take over the health care business of our county. They would be glad to take our business, but not the obligations.
For those laissez-faire economists who would like events to take their course, and for our politicians who want one less headache, obligation is the nagging reason why we don’t need just any hospital. HCH is different from other hospitals because it has an obligation. Its mission is service, and it has the obligation to provide the full spectrum of health care needs to the citizens of our county.
HCH has the obligation to do what is not profitable. It must keep the ambulances running and the emergency room doors open to all comers. It must provide low-margin services, like treating grandmother’s pneumonia, fixing her broken hip, and giving her physical therapy. Profits must be spread to cover public health, home health, disaster preparation, and good benefits for the employees. It is a county hospital’s job to do what is needed for the community.
How can we pass up this opportunity to do what is vital for our community? What ranks more important to a place than its schools and the hospital?
How many counties must envy us? We have got to be the richest county per capita in the state. All we have to do is say yes to what is important. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure things out.
Harrison Countians need to make a decision now. The time is ripe to build a new county hospital. If we do nothing and let for-profit ventures in, they will do only what is profitable and leave HCH to wither with a mission, but no margin.
Please contact our county council members to build a new county hospital. Tell them yes, we have the means. Yes, we have the need. Yes, we have the obligation. And, yes, we have the goodwill to do what is best for Harrison County.
Bruce Burton as been practicing family medicine in Harrison County since October 1, 1981.

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