Posted on

Local control

It seems to us, following Harrison County Hospital’s new hospital public forum Thursday night, that the problem in building a much-needed new hospital lies in local control.
Hospital officials, who have an outstanding record of achievement over the past 50 years, want to continue to provide the best medical care for local people. The Harrison County Council, which controls the purse strings for county projects, and which controls the spending of millions of dollars of riverboat revenue, wants to make sure that building a new $36 million hospital on a new site next to Interstate 64 in Corydon is the right thing for the community for the next few decades. Thus far, the hospital people haven’t persuaded the council people that this is the best course of action. As far as we can tell, the public hasn’t been convinced either. There lies the rub.
What complicates matters is that the council is dominated by conservative thinkers who move very slowly, if at all, on big spending issues, and this is an election year. An interesting note is that the hospital board is also dominated by conservative thinkers who move very slowly on big spending issues, and their track record over the years is very good, with little financial help from the county, thank you. The hospital board and executive director Steve Taylor have been thinking about, planning and consulting experts on this project for 10 years!
Dr. Richard Brown is on the hospital board. He returned from his medical training to set up a family practice in his home town of Elizabeth 19 years ago. At first he objected to new hospital plans, but now he’s convinced we need it. He ought to know. (He was born in what is now the board’s conference room!) He knows that big city hospitals need to provide all the highly specialized work they’ve always done, because they can bring all the specialists and technology to bear. But we shouldn’t depend on other hospitals for our needs. That is not the mission of a rural hospital. The local hospital has to meet the basic medical needs of a growing community. It ought to have all the resources it needs, especially since we can afford it with all that riverboat revenue.
We don’t have to sell out to a large hospital corporation which will take the profits and run.
Our hospital is out of date. The surgery department looks like something out of the 1950s. The hospital is crowded and landlocked. Access is terrible. Infrastructure systems are getting very old. Expansion or remodeling would be very expensive. You can’t hardly find a place to park. The hospital won’t be attracting new physicians much longer unless the facilities get better, and that will hurt all of us.
Council president Gary Davis is a conservative CPA who doesn’t like to spend money needlessly. He’s not convinced the hospital plan is the right thing to do, and he feels pressured to act without getting all the facts. He consulted a former HCH administrator and now he wants the council to hire a professor/consultant from Minnesota to study the hospital’s plans, the situation and report back. Maybe this ‘second opinion’ isn’t such a bad idea. Perhaps it will lead to consensus.
If everything the hospital people have been telling us is true, the consultant from out of town, if he’s independent and impartial, will give us an intelligent, reasonable recommendation. In the meantime, the elections will go forward, the timid council candidates can dodge the hospital issue until the election is over, and when the consultant’s report is finished, we’ll be ready to proceed ahead with doing the right thing.
In the end, we think this will all boil down to community pride. Harrison County is a great place to live. Hundreds of people move here every year because we can offer a great quality of life. As Dr. John Gonzaba, a new surgeon here, observed, we have much to be proud of ‘ our history, our landscape, school systems, churches, wonderful people. We are proud of our First State Capitol, proud of our Harrison County Justice Center, proud of our courthouse which is now being remodeled, proud of our parks, forests and caves. Eventually, sooner rather than later, we hope, we will be proud of our new hospital, too.