Throughout the community conversation — one, frankly, that started in 2006 — we have come to some indisputable conclusions.
First, Munroe's financial future is uncertain at this point. It remains fiscally sound. Yet, with Obamacare not yet fully enacted and Medicaid and Medicare — which account for about 80 percent of the hospital's revenues — likely to undergo reform, we cannot know exactly what that future holds, for better or worse.
Then, there is Munroe's standing as a quality operation. Even most tax opponents concede it is well managed and delivers great care. It is this reality that gives us pause about proposals to lease it to a major, out-of-town hospital chain for 40 years. While the suitors have made big promises of infusions of capital and the benefits of consolidated services, they have not been able to adequately assure us the quality care that has become Munroe's hallmark will remain the same.
So, we offer a new statistic worth considering. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer in Ocala/Marion County, which is unlikely to change as our population only gets older. Each year, hospitals across the nation are measured on their efficiency and success in treating heart attacks. One of the most prominently cited measures is the so-called "door to balloon time," the time in which it takes a heart attack victim suffering a myocardial infarction to go from arrival to having his or her blocked artery opened and the blood flow to the heart restored.
The most recent evaluation of Munroe, as in earlier ones, found it way ahead of its peers. Based on American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association guidelines, the evaluation is conducted by the Society of Chest Pain Centers.
The national average door-to-balloon time is 63 minutes. Munroe, meanwhile, had an average door-to-balloon time of 44 minutes, less than half the 90-minute minimum standard set by the ACC and the AHA. For local comparison, Ocala Regional is also better than the national average at 58 minutes.
In a life-and-death moment, minutes matter. And while the door-to-balloon time is just one indicator, we believe it is indicative of the type of care Ocala/Marion County residents receive more often than not from their community hospital.
The tax referendum on the ballot calls for a 1-mill increase in local property taxes for five years, which supporters of the tax say will cost the typical homeowner about $5 a month. You cannot put a price on life, but if you did, $5 seems a small price to pay for the kind of care our community receives from Munroe.
The tax referendum is not just about dollars and cents. It is about ensuring all Ocala/Marion Countians have access to some of the best health care in the land. Because of that we, again, recommend approval of the hospital tax.