Hospital Closure – One More Chance?

Posted 4 years ago

By Post Staff

By Steve Moody ~ Stafford County Emergency Management Director

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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