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Time is money

OTHER VOICES

Ocala, FL - December 4, 2011

Published in the Ocala Star Banner on Sunday, December 4, 2011

 It is good to see that the editors of the Star-Banner have published an opinion in strong support for the continuation of our community hospital, Munroe Regional Medical Center, in its present form. The editorial, "Recognizing value in public hospitals" (Nov. 27), reminds us of the value that is easily recognizable — at least for those with an objective evaluation in mind.

It is very important for our local newspaper to take on the challenge of helping to educate members of our community on this extremely important issue. And value is what it is all about.

It is blatantly apparent, as stated in the article regarding safety-net facilities, for us to consider selling our community hospital without having a plan in place to provide for the "the vast array of services they provide." And yet, there are some in our community with exactly that in mind.

That begs the question of their possible motives for the drive to create a potentially catastrophic event that would impact all of our residents, including members of our business community. You can't plan for the replacement of some of the services currently provided at Munroe.

One of the oft-neglected issues when considering the possible sale of the community hospital to a for-profit company is the repercussions that would immediately impact its staff and patients.

Personally, having many years of experience in volunteerism at MRMC and elsewhere in our community, I would suggest to you that, by far, the majority of the 1,645 members of the Munroe Regional Medical Center Auxiliary Inc. would re-think their commitment and decide to leave the MRMC auxiliary and move their contributions of time and talent to another not-for-profit organization. In other words, they volunteer because it is a community-owned, not-for-profit hospital.

The huge majority of the volunteers would choose not to continue to give of themselves in an effort to "improve the bottom line" and increase the coffers of some for-profit corporate entity to help pay bonuses and improve dividends and returns. They will go elsewhere and find a place that appreciates them and improves the quality of life of their neighbors in the local community. That would render MRMC a less-efficient and less-effective health care organization. Read that as: Not quality care, and certainly not good for anyone's bottom line.

If you think the work of the auxiliary volunteers is meaningless, think again. Ask the past patients and their families, who have personally experienced the compassion, respect, care and level of concern provided by those volunteers, if their presence is meaningless.

Some other simple metrics to help one understand the impact of the efforts of the MRMC Auxiliary include:

-- More than 225,000 hours were donated by the auxiliary in 2011 alone.

-- The Prestige 55 group, a wellness and prevention program, has more than 23,000 members that attended 55 programs throughout the year.

-- The auxiliary includes 143 Parish Nurse/Health Ministry volunteers representing 73 local churches.

-- The auxiliary educated 2,268 first-grade students who visited our facilities.

-- More than 175 high school students and 66 college students are part of our volunteer program.

If you think that the $224,961 the auxiliary raised to enhance the patient care services at MRMC — in 2010, alone — isn't important, think again. The combined total of the auxiliary donations to the hospital in the past 25 years has surpassed $4 million.

As a result of the above, and many more accomplishments, it should be obvious that the value of the MRMC Auxiliary is one that should not be underestimated and certainly not neglected in an objective analysis. The auxiliary exists solely to support Munroe Regional Medical Center in its mission to improve the health care of our community. That is a mission that should not be valued too lightly.

The governor and his appointed commission may not have to deal with a Munroe-less Marion County, but if they rush to judgment, you and I will. They may have in place excellent health care benefit plans provided by their employers (or taxpayers), which will provide them all necessary care at for-profit medical facilities; you and I may not have such generous plans in place. Yes, for many reasons — some obvious, some perhaps not so obvious — “shutting them down and selling them hardly seems to be the answer.”

Richard J. Grosso III is retired director of International Business Development for Federal Signal Corp. (E-One) and serves as vice president of the MRMC Auxiliary Inc., among other local volunteer capacities. He lives in Ocala.

 Volunteer Bill Kohler spends a moment with Kristen McAdams and her three-day-old son, Colin, as they are being discharged from Munroe Regional Medical Center in June 2009. Alan Youngblood/Staff photographer/File

Volunteer Bill Kohler spends a moment with Kristen McAdams and her three-day-old son, Colin, as they are being discharged from Munroe Regional Medical Center in June 2009. Alan Youngblood/Staff photographer/File


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