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Hospital Closure – One More Chance?

January 12, 2012

Stafford County Hospital is facing an uncertain future – possible closure. Something like this is more complicated than my small mind should examine, but I would like to share my thoughts anyway– both as an Emergency Service Director and as a citizen.

I don’t believe anybody – other than the person himself – would argue that the hospital’s most recent hospital administrator was possibly the all-time worst in Stafford County. Many would nominate him for a national award.

While debt piled up to an enormous level, practically no cost cutting measures were taken. Worse yet he shielded the degree of financial despair from the overseers.

The hospital was hemorrhaging debt while the administrator sat clueless. Worst yet he didn’t allow the team – the employees – to treat the bleeding patient. No employees were solicited for ideas on how to either streamline operations or implement new money making services.

So, here we sit with over $500,000 in debt. And, now the hospital is asking for another chance once we pay for the blood-letting. The million dollar question or maybe the half a million dollar question is, “Should we?

My opinion is “yes” BUT.

First, I’ll address why the “yes” and then the BUT.

I honestly don’t know that many understand the importance of a lone county hospital and the impact of its closure. It’s fair to say the loss would have serious economic impact on Stafford County.

The obvious loss is jobs. And, it isn’t like the people in these jobs are just going to go work someplace else in Stafford County. No, most likely they’ll move – with their families. Can Stafford County withstand an immediate loss of one hundred souls?

Another obvious impact is on emergency care. Every single person will have at least a thirty-five minute (much longer for those in the eastern part of the county) ride to any hospital. How many folks with a major medical condition will move when they discover the risk of being more than a half an hour away from potential life-saving care?

And then there are the elderly folks that want to be closer to home after a major surgery. This is called “swing bed.” No hospital, no swing bed. Commuting back and forth down Highway 281 is a risky proposition for folks whose driving ability isn’t what it used to be. How many will just decide to move?

The bottom line is fewer Stafford County residents will mean more tax burden on those of us left – and there already aren’t many us now.

Another reason for the yes is the quality of care being administered at the hospital. The finance problem has nothing to do with the quality of care being administered. Stafford County Hospital has some top notch health care providers.

Now for the “BUT.”

If Stafford County is going to have a county ran anything the residents who pay the bill deserve it to be run efficiently. No county operation should be allowed to ignore its budget – especially to the tune of over $500,000. If the hospital is given another chance it should be with tight oversight and a short leash.

The hospital must have a strong leader. The great thing is we’ve got one running the show right now. Todd Taylor might not have a bunch of degrees hanging on the wall, but he knows hospital operations and he’s a leader.

It’s fair to have county-wide expectations, but that should be coupled with county-wide support.

Stafford Hospital isn’t the correct choice for all medical care, but it should be utilized whenever they can deliver the procedure. Why would you choose to give your dollars to another county when you can give them to your own? If it’s because of some age-old vendetta, we need to forgive and forget.

I started off this writing by citing my small mind. I’ll close with that same point.

I have no experience in measuring economic impact, but there are people that do. Stafford County needs to give the hospital one more chance, but we should have a hospital economic impact study done as soon as possible.

Closing a lone county hospital is a huge financial decision. A decision of this magnitude should be made with as much knowledge as possible – not with emotion.

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13 Comments leave one →
  1. cdunn@staffordecodevo.com permalink
    January 12, 2012 2:51 pm

    As a matter of fact, I just found out there is a study! K-State did a study “The Importance of Health Care Sector to the Economy of Stafford County” in December 2010. It’s 25 pages that I’m reading this morning, but the headline I’m taking is that health care in this county is a total of $17 million in revenue (including nursing homes). The revenue through this county in the hospital alone is $6.5 million. So yes, tax revenue supports it, but it by far it is other sources of payment that make the hospital run. Lose the hospital, lose that $6.5 million in revenue within the county, plus the domino effect into other health care like nursing homes and home health care, not to mention the domino effect to the economy in general.

  2. January 12, 2012 5:17 pm

    As a business owner, I will attest to the importance of the hospital for economic reasons. It doesn’t take long to realize that loosing the hospital could start a domino effect that would have devastating consequences. What about Leisure Home? How would it survive without a hospital? That would impact Stafford and St. John. If the employees of the hospital moved, what would that do to our school? Would that be the last straw? If we loose our school, there is nothing left. Because of state funding issues, all cities and towns are basically a house built of cards; one card comes out and the whole thing collapses. In a small community like ours, there are so few cards that if one is lost, there is nothing to compensate. The businesses that are surviving can’t do so if we loose more population. As a mom, I’m not sure I want to live where there is no critical care. I support Todd Taylor and the board. I believe they can put correct the wrongs done and not only allow our hospital to survive, but ultimately to grow and be completely self sufficient.

  3. January 12, 2012 5:18 pm

    I did NOT mean to be anonymous!!

    • January 12, 2012 9:36 pm

      Thanks for the comment. I think business owners might want to attend the town hall meetings in each of the sites. That way you can let all the people in the county know how important the hospital is to you.

  4. jason kocher permalink
    January 12, 2012 6:48 pm

    To whom wrote the artical I would like to put in my 2 cents worth. I agree w what u say BUT a few things. First off NO I don’t think the hospital should close. In my opinion the administrator they had years ago (Mrs Thomas) was good at her job. The last administrator they had several people complained about him but the complaints fell on deaf ears. As I see it when you have 100 complaints not everyone that complains is wrong. Maybe someone shouldve stood behind the employees and patrons.

    The administrator we have now (Mr Taylor) is awesome in my book. I hope he can help straighten the mess that others left behind. As for his lack of degrees that’s just fine with me because I feel that even if a person has a drivers license don’t mean they know how to drive.
    I remember a time when we had 3 dr offices in stafford at the same time. Now we have one. We had two but he couldn’t get anything done because he wouldn’t put down his duck. In my opinion he was a quack! Lots of people voiced thgeir opinions bout him and yet all of the complaints fell on deaf ears. So in my opinion if you want or need change or another chance then people need to listen. What’s happened to our little town?

    Now for the but, I myself think we need the hospital for several reasons. Jobs,family, care. We need all of that. Now just like when I was younger I got into trouble when I didn’t listen and now the hospital is in the same predicament. I feel we have a great dr in town (Dr Farmer) but the folks need or would like another. I dnt know how to get that dne but I’m it can b dne. So yes SAVE our HOSPITAL!

  5. Kay Kinnamon permalink
    January 12, 2012 9:43 pm

    I have used the Stafford Hospital on 3 occasions and always got the best of care. I feel that Dr. Farmer is one of the best doctors around and if he does not know what is wrong, he will send you to a specialist to find out. However, having known Fritz my entire life, I know that he is not getting any younger. There needs to be a search for another doctor for the county. Calvin and Jill are also awesome but they are stretched thin, too. I have been told that the former doctor wanted a lot of new equipment and was not denied his every wish and that was part of the problem. My concern is, where was the hospital board when all of this was taking place? Sometimes a board has to say no and deny a doctor’s every wish. Probably the blame cannot be put on a single person, but the solution is a problem that all of us must share in. I agree, to lose the hospital will mean the loss of jobs, community members and perhaps the school. We all need to work together to make sure that we keep our hospital. If it means more taxes, so be it, because some night, it might be you or me that needs that emergency room to save our lives. I hope that Mr. Taylor is the right man to help clean up the mess that has been created and that our county commissioners can help with the current shortfall and help the hospital get back on its feet.

  6. Anonymous permalink
    January 13, 2012 2:41 am

    I have been to that hospital 1 time too many. I won’t post my name because I live in the county and dont want the neighbors to come down on me.

    But if I get sick again I have instructed my wife to send me the hell out of the stafford hospital chamber of horrors.

    2nd the stafford county ambulance service billiing screwups unprofessional, untrained EMT’s will NOT be transporting me there unless I am so out of it I dont know what is going on.

    • January 13, 2012 3:42 am

      I’ve been the EMS director for a bit over two years. I cannot fix what I don’t know is broken. The hospital has made a lot of changes. One is a new director. I know him personally. I’m sure that he too would like the opportunity to address your issues. I will maintain 100% confidentiality and will meet you any place – any time.

      • Anonymous permalink
        January 13, 2012 2:42 pm

        This is a great article, Mr. Moody! It doesn’t sugarcoat what has happened while at the same time tells us that we need to do the responsible thing for the county and keep the hospital going. Even though it means higher taxes to repay the no fund warrants, we need to support the county commission as they seek emergency funds for the hospital. Along with the change of hospital leadership, though, it seems to me that we need new board members to be responsible for the spending of half a million dollars! The board needs to keep the public informed by having current and accurate financial reports available, posting board minutes in the paper on a timely and consistent basis, and listening to concerns from hospital “owners” who happen to be the residents of the county. If it doesn’t create a conflict of interest, Steve, you would make a great board member! You are a communicator, you care about the hospital and the area it serves, you are a hard worker and will do what it takes!

  7. Brenda Minnis permalink
    January 13, 2012 2:44 pm

    didn’t mean to be anonymous either………..those are my thoughts just posted.

    Brenda Minnis

  8. candie gamble permalink
    January 13, 2012 10:00 pm

    i truely believe if dr.bauer was not treated the was he was……the hospital would not be in this shape. The other drs. Around he all the want to do is transfer out. Soo. They would start doin what baurer did. And treat in hospital .they would help the hospital. I do feel sorry for the nursing homes. But…all u hear is transfer to pratt.so save the ppl money on a hospital bill and just head out of town….hopefully the same nurses r not still at the hospital…and yes i now go to greatbend and all my family tooo. Should have kept bauer happy………….

  9. Louis Morgan permalink
    January 14, 2012 6:21 pm

    Well just let you all know where I stand and I’m in the medical field and proud to be in the field that I’m in. I will go anywhere in the county to help the people of the county when they are in need of medical care. there is no one in this county that is better than anyone else we all put our pants on one leg at a time so we need to pull together and support our Hospital and Drs in this county. Because if we loose these service you all need to under stand that there is this thing called the golden hour and if we have to go else where you are loosing alot of time to get to another hospital so every minute counts when you need the help so dont let this hospital leave the county and give your support. Just rember the GOLDEN HOUR when not supporting the hospital. Good luck and Good Health to all Stafford County Residents…..

  10. Richard Foster permalink
    January 15, 2012 2:36 pm

    I am, as Todd Taylor said at the Stafford Chamber, optimistically positive. Cheryl and I have been in Stafford for over 11 years now and I believe the County Hospital is on the right track now. These no fund warrants are so needed for the immediacy of the need and please allow this process to continue folks.
    I can only imagine the economic impact of losing the hospital. And when you factor in the increased one or two mils of taxes vs. the drive and care being so far away and think about it being that way from now on WE LOSE.
    If the other hospital districts are sitting on funds those should be allowed go toward this need since it is a County Hospital that was voted on.
    I support Todd Taylor and Steve Moody and the County Commissioners and or EMS crew as we dig out of this pit. Go ahead and chime in folks. Richard Foster, Minister

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