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Ordinance would protect hospital from rival facilities

Harrison County officials are considering an ordinance to temporarily prevent construction of specialty medical care facilities or hospitals other than Harrison County Hospital.
Corydon attorney John Colin, representing Harrison County Hospital in Corydon, presented a sample ordinance Monday night to the Harrison County Board of Commissioners. If adopted, the ordinance would penalize violators to the tune of $2,500 a day.
Such moratoriums have already been adopted in Floyd and Clark counties to keep physician investors from crossing the Ohio River from Louisville. Officials fear they would operate specialty facilities that would siphon profitable medical care from the county hospitals and thus cripple the health, safety and welfare of residents.
A task force would be appointed by the commissioners to study the long-term effects such facilities would have in Harrison County.
The commissioners expect to have the second reading of the ordinance at its next meeting in May, which will be at 8:30 a.m. May 3 instead of May 2 due to a scheduling conflict. If the moratorium passes as expected, the full ordinance would then be advertised for two weeks in The Corydon Democrat’s legal notices before taking effect.
The ordinance could have been advertised today but that would require a unanimous vote on the three-member board. Commissioner J.R. Eckart seconded Jim Heitkemper’s motion to adopt the ordinance, but James Goldman said he wasn’t ready to vote. He wanted time to read the ordinance more carefully. He’d just received it that night.
Colin’s presentation came on the heels of a plea made earlier in the evening by Rina VanKleef, a Crandall-Lanesville Road resident who is a registered nurse and case planner at Floyd Memorial Hospital and Health Services in New Albany. She strongly supports Harrison County Hospital, she said, because it offers across-the-board services, even those that don’t provide the profits necessary to operate a hospital.
VanKleef reasoned that unlike private, for-profit ventures, county hospital’s do not turn patients away because they are unable to pay, which must be offset by profitable services. When a private facility takes those patients away, an unlevel playing field is created.
‘This is not about competition,’ VanKleef told the commissioners. ‘It’s about having a level playing field. I don’t think we have the type of population to support multiple speciality hospitals.’
VanKleef said as a Harrison County resident who has a family and has undergone a double lung transplant, she is more familiar than most with both sides of the medical field. And she wants Harrison County Hospital to remain healthy.
‘The difference in a corporate-owned versus a county-owned hospital is unbelievable,’ VanKleef said. ‘As a taxpayer in Harrison County, I want to see our hospital survive.’
Indiana is a target for specialized, for-profit ventures because state law does not require the need for such services be established first. Kentucky does require the need, so potential investors there look across the river, VanKleef said.
No one at the meeting spoke on behalf of any potential investors.
The commissioners are expected to approve the proposed ordinance at their May 3 meeting.