Let’s set record straight on hospitals
I am writing on behalf of more than 300 employees and contracted personnel, our team of more than 60 physicians and the patients that Natchez Community serves. In the last year and a half I have recognized two common, consistent themes expressed by certain members of the community: 1). NCH or “for-profit” hospitals are only concerned about profits and not quality; and 2). NCH or “for-profit” hospitals will not take care of the indigent patients. While I realize these are common stereotypes, those views devalue the dedicated service and question the morality of anyone who walks through our doors, especially our employees who live in our community.
I have worked for an academic health center, a “not-for-profit” hospital system and two “for-profits.” I can tell you definitively that all of them have the same enduring mission — to take care of the patients in the community that they serve and to do it to the best of their ability. People who work in health care do it because it is a vocation and a calling. They have a sense of compassion for their fellow man and a sincere desire to give of themselves to help others. People that work in healthcare are far less concerned with the financial status of their employer than whether that organization can provide them a place to work out their purpose and do a worthwhile service.
Far more similarities than differences exist between “not-for-profit” and “for-profit” hospitals. In fact, the only real differences between a “not-for-profit” and a “for-profit” are sources of funding and taxes. Natchez Community Hospital has served this community proudly for 40 years. In the last 12 months we have paid more than $460,000 in property and sales taxes and have donated more than $45,000 to local charities and school programs.
In regard to the quality of service provided in our region, I would like to call your attention to a couple of important points. Last year, for the second year in a row, NCH was recognized by The Joint Commission as a top performer on key quality metrics. Natchez Community was one of only 16 hospitals in the state to receive that distinction two years in a row and the only one in our service area. We also anticipate receiving that recognition again this year. Secondly, I implore you to go to the Medicare.gov Hospital Compare website and review the publicly reported quality scores for the hospitals in our area. You will see that patients received high quality care based on healthcare industry supported and proven best practice guidelines.
In regard to caring for the indigent population in our community, NCH has the majority market share for uninsured patients in Adams County. In fact, NCH has a higher market share for every payer source. The people who work here provide quality service with a compassionate attitude, regardless of socio-economic status.
No doubt, profits are important. As the late Sister Irene Kraus from the Daughters of Charity health system once said, “No margin, no mission.” Profits are essential to repay investors or lien holders, invest in technology or facilities, provide staff with cost-of-living wage increases and to recruit physicians. However, to suggest that achieving profit targets at the sacrifice of patient care is inhumane and contradicts basic and fundamental ethical convictions.
While a decision is being made on what course to take with the future of health care in Adams County, please spend some valuable time listening to the local medical staff. Every physician that I have spoken with has said the same thing: They want one hospital in this town, and if two hospitals remain, they don’t want one to become a funnel for another out-of-area entity.
They realize the economic and service capability opportunity that would be created if the old “us vs. them” mentality that has existed for the last four decades could end and both facilities could get on the same page.
I fear that the impressions that have been left because of history in this town are going to lead to a short-sighted decision that doesn’t take into account all of the long term impacts on the community. History needs to be history. We need to move forward.
Eric Robinson is the chief executive officer of Natchez Community Hospital.