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The Munroe vote and where we go from here

OTHER VOICES

Ocala, FL - October 2, 2011

By Special to the Star-Banner

Published in Ocala Star-Banner on Sunday, October 2, 2011 at 6:30 a.m.

Applause should ring out from the legions of Marion Countians who appreciate action taken by the Marion County Hospital District Board of Trustees and directors of Munroe Regional Medical Center that assures maintaining the high-quality of health care and efficient operation of the hospital.

Voting to keep operation of the hospital in the hands of Munroe Health Care Systems Inc. until 2023 is a wise and warranted move. Health Care Systems is the current hospital administration that has been so successful in providing excellent care at the institution.

In addition, the position taken by the trustees/directors will be beneficial in negotiations should they find it necessary in the years ahead to consider leasing the facility to a for-profit entity, or put it up for sale to a hospital company.

If because of financial ills the time ever comes to take such drastic action, assurance must be made that a for-profit lessor or a new owner will maintain the existing high level of care at Munroe, along with a list of other services and stipulations.

It is hoped such a situation never arises. Certainly, before a decision is made to head in that direction, all options must be carefully considered.

Making sure that MRMC retains its status as one of the finest community hospitals in the country is an absolute must. If it becomes necessary to ultimately seek taxpayer help then that approach should be taken.

In the words of one of the speakers at last Monday's trustees/directors meeting, "Munroe is our hospital." Col. Ed Johnson, a former trustee whose term expired earlier in the year, labeled it "a crown jewel." This very likely expresses the sentiment of a large segment of the community's population.

That it has become such a widely acclaimed facility without so much as a single cent of taxpayer funds is an accomplishment matched by few, if any, other hospitals. Munroe is one of the few community hospitals in Florida that is not allotted annual taxpayer funds.

There is no question about past and present trustees playing prominent roles in helping make Munroe such a widely acclaimed facility.

Fortunately, for the most part until recently, politics was not a factor in making trustee appointments. Just why county commissioners now appear to be taking a different approach is unfortunate and difficult to comprehend.

A few months ago, commissioners unanimously named a trustee who apparently made up his mind to oppose positive decisions by a majority of the seven trustees before attending his first meeting. It is likely the commissioners were aware of the stance Larry Strack was to take before selecting him to serve on the most important appointive board in the county.

In the vote to assure keeping in place those who have played major roles in helping MRMC attain its present excellent status, Strack joined fellow trustee Joe Hanratty in refusing to align themselves with their five fellow trustees.

It has been rewarding in recent times to see more individuals stepping up and voicing support for Munroe. Without question, there are thousands who hold the same view — many whose lives were saved and others whose lifespans were extended by skillful surgery and treatments by an outstanding array of caregivers at Munroe. I personally can vouch for that.

The large segment supporting Munroe would be especially effective in asking commissioners to place a referendum on the ballot. This would give voters an opportunity to decide whether they favor imposing a tax to generate funds. These funds would help pay for the hospital services incurred by the indigent, jobless and those unable to fully pay for the health care they receive.

For anyone to expect neighbors, friends and churches to assume the payments, or otherwise to deny that the services be provided, is both heartless and absurd.

http://www.ocala.com/article/20111002/OPINION/110939955/1183/OPINION?Title=The-Munroe-vote-and-where-we-go-from-here


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