Thinking the unthinkable

Published 2:20 pm Friday, January 7, 2011

This week’s epistle may set off some sparks. It’s really meant to promote thinking about an issue critically vital to our community.

As well as seeking a new administrator for Memorial Hospital and Manor, perhaps too we should give careful consideration in joining the affiliation with Archbold Medical Center of Thomasville.

I know, we are proud of our Memorial Hospital and enjoy the privilege of managing our own house.

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Memorial Hospital is a long-time partner within our community. Many folks give voluntarily of their time to make it better.

But as we have seen in the past few years, rising medical costs have been taking their toll everywhere, especially against small community hospitals. Many have had to close their doors because of unaffordable expenses.

The hospital here has been losing millions of dollars, yet somehow still manages to stay alive.

How much longer can it go on?

That its doors remain open is testimony that many folks continue to give quality medical service in tough economic times.

Is it now the albatross around our necks, the white elephant that cannot run?

Archbold has made past offers, but we have turned them down.

Perhaps now is the time to give it careful consideration.

Quality health care is more important today because of the aging population. We now hear a lot about the baby-boom generation, those born after World War II and through 1965, a huge population impact of folks now entering senior status.

Archbold affiliation manages four hospitals, all in our neighborhood—Brooks County Hospital in Quitman since 1987; Grady General Hospital in Cairo since 1985; Mitchell County Hospital in Pelham since 1990; plus Archbold Medical Center in Thomasville since 1925.

The four hospitals have 650 beds, 160 specialists and employ more than 2,500 people.

I’m not tooting the horn particularly for Archbold. I have not spoken to anyone there. I have nothing to gain one way or the other. I am simply saying, let’s give it careful and dutiful consideration, either joining the affiliation with Archbold, or putting the hospital on the block, up for bids, to any management agency willing to pay the bill and run a high-quality institution.

Either way, let’s get a good price for it, and pay back all the local tax dollars lost over the past few years.

Our hospital board has worked diligently against the odds. They are community-minded folks who would never think of dollars first and health care second. Yet we must ask ourselves, how long can the hospital sustain continued losses without facing serious consequences?

This is serious stuff and it deserves serious consideration from community leaders who have been fighting economic decline, budgetary shortfalls and record unemployment for nearly three years now.

Seek out your political leaders and tell them what you think. They would like to know.

Here stands the issue for serious discussion. Take it from here, for or against.