To the Editor,

In consideration of the half cent sales tax for healthcare in Brown county, Hiawatha Community Hospital deserves your support. For three generations HCH has been a source of pride for a community who once banded together to fund the building of the hospital. Many of that original generation of hospital supporters would certainly be surprised to see the level of resistance today. Brown county stands as one of few remaining counties with a critical access hospital that has not either already begun receiving sales tax support or been acquired by a larger health system. Unfortunately, we missed the distinction of not having a critical access hospital shut down due to changes to the national healthcare system.

The day that Horton Community Hospital closed its doors was an eye-opener. It showed the risk we face in the current healthcare climate when we wait too long to act. Healthcare is not something to play around with. If the greatest expense you face in our healthcare system is 2 quarters for every $100 spent, then you’re one of the few lucky ones that have never needed medical assistance. Looking at the number of Nebraska plates in the Wal-Mart parking lot, why NOT do what many other rural counties have done and let outside shoppers help subsidize healthcare here? This sales tax is a winning opportunity for our county.

Given the fact that HCH has until now spared Brown county from tax support, being several years after many other rural counties have already asked for and received tax support should indicate far from poor management. Likewise, criticism from other members of the healthcare community is odd. Especially when weighed with whether that individual works at a hospital which itself receives tax support. The reality that hospitals face today is far removed from the reality when HCH was built in 1951.

With regards to compensation, few people know what the HCH physicians actually do with their bonus. Some of it ends up going back to the hospital foundation. More of it going to other local causes within the community. The physician with the largest bonus in 2017 left HCH in 2018. At least 3 of the remaining 5 physicians will no longer be at HCH within the next 3 years. Whatever your issues may be with the current physician compensation, think about how difficult it would be recruiting the next generation of physicians to a hospital that the county has voted twice not to support.

It is fair to ask for transparency from HCH and scrutinize the information you receive. It is also tempting to think you could do a great job as hospital CEO. You would soon be faced with the sobering facts facing ALL rural hospitals across the nation leading many to ask for tax support or face closure. The lucky ones that have received that tax support – many of them here in Kansas - are now thriving. Vote YES to support healthcare in Brown County.

Richard Jarvis

Hiawatha

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