|Ocala, FL -
November 25, 2012|
Published in the Ocala Star-Banner Sunday, November 25, 2012 at 6:30 a.m.
Rejection by voters of a bond issue to provide Munroe Regional Medical Center with public funds should not be viewed as a reflection on the hospital and its top-rated services.
Instead, it was a case of voters letting it be known they oppose paying higher taxes in any fashion, period.
Not once during the time leading up to the recent general election, when the hospital tax referendum appeared on the ballot, did the outside faction brought in to oppose the tax, along with individual residents, voice complaints about services provided by the publicly owned institution.
The hospital tax defeat came on the heels of voters earlier in the year turning down paying higher taxes to upgrade the county school system. Criticism of classroom teaching was not a factor in the outcome. Voters were letting it be known they opposed an increase in their tax bills.
The future status of Munroe now rests in the hands of the hospital’s trustees. They wisely have determined that leasing MRMC is the best approach, rather than placing the hospital and its satellite operations up for sale.
Relinquishing local control of one of the nation’s top 50 hospitals is a difficult decision to accept. At the same time, it apparently is not financially feasible for the hospital to operate and maintain the high level of health care it has been providing.
Unfortunately, there is no other course to take unless certain costly services are abolished and funds become available to purchase highly expensive equipment. And even that would not be a long-term solution.
As a community-owned and locally controlled hospital, Munroe is required to provide full service for patients from all walks of life, whether they are able to pay for services they receive or not.
This is in sharp contrast to a for-profit, privately owned hospital that is required to only stabilize a patient’s condition before dismissing the individual involved if it so desires.
Munroe’s patients unable to pay their bills and the constantly rising number of Medicaid and Medicare patients, whose services are not fully reimbursed by governmental entities, have been major factors in bringing on its financial plight.
While leasing will take MRMC out of local control, trustees undoubtedly will attempt to assure continuance of certain services.
Although Munroe is not to be sold, in many aspects a long-term lease will have the same affect. It is to be hoped the leasing firm will at least keep intact some of the services that enabled Munroe to attain deserving national recognition.
As the hospital we have known is to be taken over by a private firm, it is interesting to note it all began in the late 1888s. That’s when a few Ocala businessmen opened a hospital on the third floor of a local building. The city and county chipped in a few hundred dollars each to help get the hospital started. It later was moved to another downtown building before moving to its present location.
After functioning as a city-county hospital for many years, in the mid-20th century, the city gave the county full ownership.
The many directors/trustees and top administrators deserve appreciation for their guidance over the years in providing the high caliber of service that saved and extended the lives of countless individuals and in maintaining a maternity care department.
That the hospital was constructed, expanded several times, equipped and operated without the residents of Marion County paying a single dime in taxes is remarkable. It is regrettable some county commissioners, for reasons without merit, and some residents refuse to give trustees the praise and recognition they deserve. Without question they are responsible for providing one of the best community hospitals in the nation.
Not to be overlooked is that in more recent years, Munroe’s outstanding reputation has prompted many highly skilled physicians, specialists and surgeons to establish their practices in Ocala.
Bernard Watts is a former editor and editorial page editor of the Star-Banner.