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Munroe debate about ideology, not quality health care

OTHER VOICES

Ocala, FL - September 11, 2011

Published in Ocala Star-Banner on Sunday, September 11, 2011 at 6:30 a.m.

You may think of yourself as a Republican, Democrat, conservative or liberal. You may be someone who has a tendency to react to bumper stickers, labels or stereotyping and grounded in a certain philosophy. But, I bet if your cow is getting gored, your position will change.

My investment adviser says, "When the facts change, my position changes. What do you do?"

In this case, our cow is getting gored.

I am left a little confused watching the assault taking place on Munroe Regional Medical Center by our county commissioners, led by Commission Chairman Stan McClain. Reports show that as a community hospital, Munroe provides services that are vital but don't make much money — i.e., delivering babies, which Ocala Regional Medical Center stopped.

Munroe trustee Jon Kurtz said it's already one of the most efficient hospitals in Florida, spending the least amount of money on patient treatment but providing some of the best care in the state.

The proposed solutions described by one of the trustees did not address the high rate of Medicaid/Medicare and poor uninsured patients seen at MRMC versus ORMC. Where is the value and credit given to this hospital for all the services given to the neediest in our community? Sure, just as ORMC did, limit or stop serving those who can't pay, stop providing services that don't make money, wham, problem solved. Well that wasn't hard.

But wait. What will happen to those just put out the door? Where will the rest of us go for those "unprofitable services"?

My family has had the occasion to use both local hospitals. We also have family and friends who work at both hospitals, and let me say up front, both are critical to our community.

There are some needed changes in the funding sources versus the operations. SO JUST FIX IT. Stop trying to dismantle and destroy a great hospital!

You can only conclude that there is a hidden agenda here.

It seems that what is going on here is governing by ideology. You have heard the philosophy: Starve the beast, shut it down, and get government out of our lives. They say stop meddling in our health care, growth management, water management, public education, utilities, consumer protection and quality assurances of products, protection of our environment and, of course, privatize basic government services. Sell our highways and bridges to private investors. Privatize the prisons. Cut pay and benefits for all public service workers, end pensions, Medicaid, Medicare and end "the Ponzi scheme" known as Social Security.

There have been many appropriate questions raised regarding the oversight of Munroe. Could these boards function better? Of course. Instead of a dialogue emerging that could produce such an outcome, this thing has digressed into an us-against-them fight. I know, because I have been pulled into the fight.

My past support for MRMC was recently demeaned in an email from Brad Dinkins, who is presently serving on Gov. Rick Scott's special commission conducting a fact-finding mission surrounding the operations of publicly funded hospitals around Florida (I have submitted a copy of this email to the Star-Banner). He cannot be unbiased and responsive to facts in his position to seek a better outcome for publicly owned hospitals like MRMC when he diminishes his objectivity by saying I am a Democrat and not on their team but on "the other side." The outcome is never good when government makes major decisions molded in concrete philosophical or political positions.

It is clear to me the County Commission embraces the essence of Dinkins' email, wherein it is our team against their team. Republicans against Democrats, conservatives against liberals, left against right.

It isn't just the hospital in the gun sights of this County Commission, but also defunding our ability to build infrastructure — suspending the collection of impact fees and giving back millions of tax dollars to builders. Yes, I hear the shouting, "We are stimulating the local economy." So where are the hundreds of millions of dollars going to come from to pay for the needed infrastructure to accommodate this anticipated spurt in growth?

Millions of tax dollars are being handed out to private businesses with no obligation to pay it back. We are all investing in a business with no return on investment in the future. Oh, I get the philosophical position that we will all benefit someday with a better economy, with jobs. So, why isn't the private sector pumping in these millions?

The County Commission is on the verge of spending more than $20 million to build a private landfill in Sumter County and will own one-eighth of the site. Nice deal for the private company.

You can't have it both ways. You can't say no tax dollars for the hospital but write unlimited checks and give unlimited tax breaks to private investors.

Yes, our cow is getting gored. Maybe, the whole herd!

http://www.ocala.com/article/20110911/OPINION/110909661?p=2&tc=pg


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