Community’s support critical for local hospital

The planned retirement for John Schon, the CEO of Dickinson County Healthcare System is the next chapter in what has turned out to be a very sad story with the demise of the hospital in Iron Mountain.

The reimbursement landscape and dwindling patient volumes have a lot to do with the struggles that Dickinson County Healthcare System is currently experiencing. Administration also has to share in the blame for not reacting to declining revenue by cutting expenses sooner.

Most people assume that their hospital would never close. Someone has to take care of the sick. That way of thinking in a perfect world would work. In the current imperfect world we live in, there are no guarantees for many things, including health care. Hospitals are a business, and for any business to survive they have to have a strong enough revenue source to be able to pay the bills.

According to a recent Morgan Stanley analysis, 450 hospitals in the United States are at risk for potential closure. The report says that 15 percent of U.S. hospitals have weak financial metrics or are at risk of potential closure.

There are lessons to be learned from what is happening in Dickinson County and for the other 15 percent of U.S. hospitals in danger of closing. If consumers want their hospitals to stay open and viable, they must support their local hospitals. The reality is that if you don’t use your local hospital for health care, you cannot just assume that they will always be there in the future to serve you.

We understand that consumers must have confidence in the quality of care provided by their local hospitals. In the Marquette area, Duke Lifepoint has been criticized in the past for the quality of care and also for making tough decisions, like cutting staff and services, which people perceived as a greedy money grab simply to improve their profit margin.

The truth of the matter is that Duke Lifepoint came in and immediately went to work to secure the future of UP Health System in Marquette. The first thing they did was to fund well over $90 million dollars to make the pension fund whole. If Dickinson County’s hospital went bankrupt, that would mean people who worked there could be in danger of losing part or all of their pensions.

As far as some of the staff cuts at UP Health System-Marquette that were made, we see those moves as unfortunate, but necessary to keep our local hospital strong and financially secure for the future. We realize that for many people it is just good sport to take shots at your local hospital. We know this because as your local newspaper we have people taking shots at us for sport often.

There have been times over the past several years when legitimate questions were asked about the quality of care at our local hospital. One of those times was when the Leap Frog ratings came out showing that the Marquette hospital went from an A rating to a D rating. Since that time, UP Health System-Marquette has scored an A rating, which recognized the facility’s efforts in protecting patients from harm and meeting the highest safety standards in the United States. UP Health System-Marquette brought in supervisory personnel to move the grade a couple of years ago from a D to an A. With those personnel in place and attention to detail, the last couple of scores showed the hospital has bounced back, now receiving an A. We hope improved ratings will help restore the confidence that people may have lost in their local hospital.

The unfortunate situation taking place in Dickinson County should serve as a reality check for other communities. If you want your local hospital to stay strong and vibrant, you need to consider having your health care needs taken care of by your local hospital. There may be specialty needs that can’t be accommodated locally, but for most health care needs we encourage all U.P. communities to support their local hospitals. Your health and well-being could be at stake.

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