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Hospital presents case for facility

Hospital presents case for facility Hospital presents case for facility

About 180 Harrison County Hospital supporters, some politicians and a few skeptics of a new hospital facility proposal turned out Thursday evening at Corydon Central High School for a 2-1/2-hour public forum. Doctors, board members, architects and hospital administrators provided information and answered questions.
‘The time for us to move is now,’ said Dr. Richard D. Brown, a member of the hospital board and a Harrison County native whose family practice is in Elizabeth. ‘If not, in 10 or 15 years, we may not have a hospital here.’
Born at HCH in 1957 (in the same room where the hospital board now meets), Brown has practiced here for 19 years.
‘The care at Harrison County Hospital is more personal than in bigger hospitals,’ he said. ‘I feel it’s imperative to build a new hospital. We can’t depend on surrounding hospitals to fill our needs. Lots of our elderly patients prefer to come to their local hospital.’
A self-described conservative, Brown said he did not accept the need for a new facility when the proposal first arose.
The hospital’s role would be to continue to provide basic care, not highly specialized services like transplants or open heart by-pass surgery at a major metropolitan hospital.
‘Highly specialized care should be done routinely and efficiently at large hospitals.
‘Many things should not be done in a small hospital,’ Brown said. ‘They should be done in a major hospital.’
And he finds it hard to understand why some folks don’t think they are worthy of having the best medical facility possible here at home.
‘I wish people with an inferiority complex would step aside so we can make our county a better one,’ Brown said, to much applause.
Without a new facility to replace the current hospital, which opened in 1950 and has been revamped, expanded and built around many times, Brown and others said it would be difficult if not impossible to attract new physicians.
HCH chief executive officer Steve Taylor said the purpose of the forum was to share information about the hospital, have a general discussion of the issues, and conduct a question and answer session.
After reminding the audience of the possibilities invoked by a ‘Field of Dreams, if you build it, they will come’ ideology, Taylor turned the podium over to Ed Vaughn, the hospital’s facilitator/mediator from Louisville.
He turned the microphone over to several on stage, who spoke to the issue from their point of view. HCH board chair Parvin Baumgart of Lanesville, a hospital director since 1965, said emphatically, ‘Remaining here is our signature on a death warrant.’
The facility is crowded, out of date (for instance, shared bathrooms in patient rooms) and essentially landlocked at its current location in a residential area south of town, Baumgart said.
‘If we fail to act, someone will build and siphon off the profitable care,’ Baumgart said.
He said more, not less, medical care will be needed in the future, especially since 30 percent of the population is made up of Baby Boomers who are now 50 or older, a time when health care can become a major factor.
He read a letter he’d recently received from a Harrison County native who has spent 35 years in a professional career of hospital finances, administration and planning.
Barry S. Schneider, a certified public accountant with a master’s degree in business administration, lives in Corvallis, Ore., but describes himself as ‘an IU Hoosier at heart.’
He wrote: ‘During most of the last five years I have worked with a hospital system that concentrates on development, improvement and stabilization of rural hospitals across America. The overwhelming challenge of keeping these hospitals viable is to minimize the out-migration of patients, employees and physicians to hospitals in nearby suburban or metropolitan areas who have more services, are safer, and have more modern technologies and facilities.
‘To fail to keep pace with modern safe facilities, equipment and technology, no matter how perfect or efficient the management or operations are, it will inevitably lead to a state of being non-competitive and non-acceptable with eventual out-migration, loss of confidence and with the inability to retain and attract patients, doctors and critical clinical and technical staff,’ Schneider said.
‘To ask dedicated health-care professionals to put their license and reputations in jeopardy everyday by working with sub-par facilities and equipment in today’s malpractice insurance climate is simply a prescription for resignation and loss of your dedicated healthcare team …
‘Thus, for the sake of my family, my friends and all the many other citizens currently living in Harrison County, as well as the future generations, I implore the Harrison County voters to demand that county leadership play a pro-active role in keeping the hospital strong and the community healthy by committing the necessary funds and support to the hospital to continue its mission of having viable competitive resources to meet the future health-care needs of the area.’
Baumgart said, ‘What we really need to do is … inform the council you are in favor of it.’
The hospital’s latest plans are to replace the facility’s 100,000 square feet of space with 150,000 square feet at a more visible site near Interstate 64 west of Corydon. The cost of the new facility, $35 million, would be about the same as that of renovating the old facility, including the revenue lost during remodeling.
Financing would be a shared arrangement between HCH and Harrison County. Each would split the annual payments of $2.5 million, 50/50. About five percent of the annual gaming tax revenue would be needed to pay Harrison County’s portion of the debt, according to planners’ calculations.
Norton Healthcare, with whom HCH is affiliated, is committed to providing assistance to the county should it decide to sell the hospital. Norton would have the right of first refusal to buy, lease or manage HCH at the county’s request.
Carl Uesseler of New Middletown, a retired educator, South Harrison Community School Corp. trustee and cancer patient, stepped to the microphone. ‘I fully support the local hospital,’ he said. ‘In fact, I think I’ve contributed to the profit margin,’ he said with a good-natured chuckle.
His questions were: 1) How involved were the doctors in planning this? and 2) How exhaustive did you look at a major hospital willing to put up a minority share in the financing and operation of a new facility?
Architect Tom Millea said, ‘Pretty much anybody on staff had some sort of input.’
Taylor said there is ‘no model for minority ownership with success’ in Indiana. When news of Jewish Hospital’s offer to join with HCH surfaced, Taylor said 10 or 12 hospitals called to see if HCH was for sale. It wasn’t and isn’t for sale.
The hospital’s affiliation with Norton since 1980 ‘has been a very successful affiliation,’ Taylor said.
HCH has not relied on tax dollars to operate since its early years, and it has made profits that have been ‘plowed back into equipment, staff or new services,’ Taylor said.
HCH does not pay dividends to shareholders from profits, because it is non-profit.
‘About $25 million has been invested over the past 20 years without any support at all from the county,’ Taylor added.
Dr. Brown said another hospital’s supposed plan to invest in a diagnostic center or out-patient center here would not be beneficial to the health care of Harrison Countians or patients from nearby communities.
‘I don’t think they had any intentions of improving health care by providing new services,’ he said. ‘It was to get new patients into the Louisville hospital.’
Linda Keller Runden of Corydon noted that she has been more than pleased with services at Harrison County Hospital. She wanted to know what HCH is doing right to make it attractive to other hospital groups and what could be done to bring Harrison County residents who are going elsewhere for hospital care into the fold.
Quality of care, administrative management skills (doing all those things that make the hospital financially viable), recruitment of physicians, and teamwork all play a part, said Vaughn.
‘You are experiencing a team effort in Corydon, Ind.,’ Vaughn said. ‘It’s rare indeed.’
The unfavorable stories that circulate about a hospital are commonplace, he said. ‘The issue is ‘ every hospital makes mistakes ‘ but the issue is, what do they do about it? If it’s not correctable, then restitution should be made to the families.’
Runden asked Taylor directly: ‘Do you know what it is that causes Harrison Countians not to use our hospital?’
Taylor said Norton Hospital conducts a scientific survey every three years that shows modern facilities are a big driving force. ‘We have lots of hearts and souls here, but … ‘
Mark Schoen, who said his wife works at HCH, said many Harrison Countians don’t go to HCH because of a lack of knowledge.
‘I think a lot of people don’t understand what’s sitting up on the hill,’ he said. ‘Their doctors are in town (New Albany, Jeffersonville, Louisville).
‘For a long time Harrison County Hospital had a bad reputation. People don’t want to give it another chance.
‘If my wife didn’t work here, I probably wouldn’t have come here either … Now I prefer to go to HCH. I’ve seen the other hospitals.
‘I feel more comfortable with Harrison County Hospital.’