Editorial: Hospital support


Health care today is one of the real growth sectors of the economy.

As we have reported before, the additional jobs created in medicine account for all the new jobs in the country since 2000. Take away all the added jobs in health care and the net growth is zero.

So government ought to be fairly careful about changing the health care field. In Illinois particularly, the state government has not always acted in the best interests of health care. It took a near collapse to generate support for curbing medical malpractice costs. Then, too, the state has opted to balance its books by going with slow pay to Medicare providers.

But there’s no real excuse for Illinois to hold up the Certificate of Need process.

What’s a Certificate of Need?

Well, for nearly 30 years, Illinois has had a Health Facilities Board that approves all major hospital additions and renovations. New construction over $7.8 million must come before the board. All new surgical centers must come before the board. Cardiac cath labs and kidney dialysis centers, for example, would come before the board.

When Riverside Medical Center, for example, sought its new cardiac surgical center, it needed and received the appropriate state approval.

The idea is to correctly plan the number of facilities needed in the state.

Now having a procedure to follow does not mean that hospitals don’t argue about facilities. They do. But having some planning procedure beats no planning at all.

The current legislation expires April 1. Last year it would have expired, but was extended for a single year. The view from here is that it should be extended for a full five years. Local legislators have been supportive, but will need to convince the rest of the legislature.

Both Provena St. Mary’s and Riverside Medical Center favor an extension of the legislation, as does the overall Illinois Hospital Association. Their concern, a justified one, is that without a planning board, national specialty chains will set up shop and skim off the profitable part of the business.

One of the realities of the medical world is the fact that no money is made on most of the patients. When you combine the people who don’t pay, with those in government programs like Medicare and AllKids, about three out of four patients are treated below cost.

The state, of course, is putting the bolts to the hospitals to try to get them to do even more charity work. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of what they do — and have done — in the past. It’s a tactic that would leave the state with fewer hospitals — and fewer of them that have local roots.

This community needs two healthy, functioning local hospitals, for its economy and for the well-being of the residents.

The Certificate program should be renewed, promptly, and in such a way as to put the controversy to rest.
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