Thursday, April 9, 2009

Too Important to Fail

Rural hospital CEO’s like me have a role that our counterparts in larger communities and urban areas rarely have. We usually find ourselves on contact committees for community economic development efforts, meeting with potential business leaders for possible business expansion or relocation. Competition is very high for this kind of development. I have had the good fortune to serve on the Poweshiek Iowa Development, Grinnell Renaissance, and the Waterford Group board of directors over my years here.

So, what does a hospital have to do with economic development? Plenty. Business owners consider many factors when shopping for location. Is there a supply of qualified workers? What is the real estate market? What about quality of life? Are the schools able to provide a good education? What about healthcare? No doubt, high quality and affordable healthcare is key to new business growth in any community. The goal of course is to attract new organizations to locate in our greater Poweshiek community and help grow our economy. Clearly that helps everyone…including Grinnell Regional Medical Center. Besides helping to tell the community’s story and helping to recruit new business to the area, I also have the opportunity to promote the medical center. I get valuable feedback on how we are doing. All around it is a vital part of my job.

Community hospitals in rural areas are often among the largest employers in town. We provide professional-level jobs, salaries, and wages that support the local economy. At GRMC, half my co-workers live outside of Grinnell including myself (I live in nearby Brooklyn, Iowa) and we impact the economies of several communities. GRMC is but one part in a larger healthcare sector of physician practices and their staff, pharmacies, therapists, and more. The excellent retirement communities in Grinnell rely heavily on a quality healthcare system to care for their residents who tend to use healthcare services more frequently. And, accessibility to quality health care influences the decision people make to retire to Grinnell.

It all ties back to my determination to correct the unfair Medicare payment system for tweener hospitals like GRMC, for better reimbursement rates for physicians, and more.

America’s community hospitals are too important to residents who rely on having quality, accessible, and affordable healthcare to fail. We are too important to area economic development and the local economy. We’re not asking for a bailout, we’re just asking for a level playing field.

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