Mark Twain: “The news of my death…”; “A lie makes it ’round the world…”; “History is strewn with evidence that a truth is not hard to kill, but a lie well told, is immortal.”
It seems the rumor that CHI Mercy Health is closing is again resurgent, giving a sense of accuracy to Twain’s aphorisms. This rumor comes around through the community almost like a seasonal virus and affects everyone throughout. Our patients, our employees, our Board members, and everyone who depends on us to be here ready to provide unsurpassed care are affected by this rumor.
Last week I was on the local radio station and I mentioned a random conversation I just happened into where a woman said to me, “They’re closing the hospital.” I assured her we weren’t, not telling her who I was. She asked how I knew, and I said, “Trust me, I know.”
This rumor remains because of the changes we’ve made to the hospital over the last number of years. It’s understandable that people will jump to conclusions–I probably would, too, not knowing the factors influencing the changes. At its core, a hospital is a place for caring, healing, and taking care of the community, but it is also a business. When a business suspends some services it certainly can appear that it is in trouble. Let me assure everyone, emphatically, right now: CHI Mercy Health is not in trouble.
A hospital is this center of healing, but it is also a business. The difficulty for any rural hospital is size. When you have a large population base and a large physician referral base, hospitals do very well. But in a community our size, where fewer than half population use our hospital, it’s very difficult to offer a multitude of services. Any business owner will understand and tell you that any product or service has a critical mass needed to make it profitable to carry or offer, and without that critical mass of customers, without that return on investment, you can’t offer services or products that cost money. This holds true for a hospital.
We have closed down services that have been a cost burden or compliance nightmare (with ever changing federal regulatory requirements) so that we can keep the emergency room and other core services of the hospital viable. Offering services that don’t help our bottom line or that require an inordinate amount of time and expense take money directly from other necessary and vital health care services that we need to provide this community.
What we’re doing is working, which is why we won’t and aren’t closing. We offer this community a wide range of health services in a changing, transformative time for the health care industry as a whole. We offer cardiac rehab, physical therapy, sleep studies, swing beds, DEXA, mammography, CAT scans, and a diversity of same-day surgeries (from ophthalmological to endoscopy), and pain management. And we have a Class I trauma center utilizing state-of-the-art telemedicine. Most important, our staff is simply the best anywhere, and comprised of people you most likely know and certainly trust.
This year we are above budget, which, if you pay attention to the news, is the exception nationally. Nationally, most hospitals are losing money. No, we aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. There will changes in how hospitals offer health care as we continue to move from acute to ambulatory care. We will adapt to the changes, we will continue to offer wonderful care, and CHI Mercy Health certainly will not be closing.
Keith Heuser is the Market President for CHI Mercy Health, Valley City.