Community should be in the loop on hospital issues

May 14, 2013

Across the nation, healthcare providers are bracing for a new way of doing business under the Affordable Care Act, one based on improved outcomes that must be achieved with less funding.

The U.S. healthcare model is changing quickly as hospitals become the major employer of doctors and small medical providers cast their lot with the major medical hubs in their region to be part of the new way of doing business.

How healthcare in Haywood will shake out is up in the air, and those with inside information on how the future might look aren’t able or willing to discuss the issues publicly.

That’s a shame. Options being discussed in closed meetings affect us all, not only from a health standpoint, but financially. There’s the issue of whether MedWest will go forward as it is currently organized, and if it doesn’t, what will happen to the affiliate hospitals.

There’s also the $10 million line of credit extended by Carolinas HealthCare System, the management entity for MedWest, that’s guaranteed by the hospital buildings in Haywood. County commissioners may face the choice of paying off the credit line to keep the buildings.

A great deal of time and expense was put into melding Haywood Regional Medical Center and the WestCare system, which had healthcare facilities Jackson and Swain counties.The affiliation was touted as a way create efficiencies that made both systems stronger and put them in a better position to face the future.

Eight months ago, the governing board for the WestCare board voted to dissolve MedWest, while the Haywood board agreed to study the issue, but expressed support for the current management model.

There have been two closed meetings in Haywood on the report being put together by a national consulting firm, Stroudwater, that will discuss possible options for the future of healthcare in the region. The contents of the initial report have been kept carefully under wraps, leaving county residents to wonder what sort of deal might be brokered regarding local healthcare service areas — and even healthcare availability.

The one action we do know about increases the hospital governing board membership from 10 to 11, something billed as a way to avoid a tie vote in light of the weighty upcoming decisions.

What the choices will be and how the outcome will impact the future of healthcare in the community are indeed pivotal to our collective future as a county, and our individual well-being when it comes to healthcare.

It appears the decisions will be made by a small group of insiders who are holding the cards close to their chest.

Leaving county residents out of the discussion is misguided and unfortunate. We are the ones with the most at stake. Our voices should be considered, and those voices should be based on information, not emotion.

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