Wednesday, September 23, 2009

23 SEP 09: Healthy Bankroll

The topic was health care reform Tuesday on WDAK radio's "Viewpoint." A guest said 31 cents of every dollar spent on health care go to hospitals. Doctors get 21 cents, and drug companies get ten cents. The guest made malpractice attorneys sound practically bankrupt.

The interview occurred as the Ledger-Enquirer broke some big news about local health care. St. Francis Hospital announced plans for an expansion and renovation which will cost $110 million. You now can start an office pool on which local government critic will be the first to declare this "Taj Mahal III."

St. Francis Hospital plans to borrow $75 million to pay for the renovation project. We're now waiting for the Columbus Tea Party to announce a march outside, to protest yet another colossal case of deficit spending in health care.

WTVM showed a breakdown of how St. Francis Hospital plans to pay for its massive makeover. It indicated $75 million will be borrowed, $25 million will come from reserves and $30 million will come from donations. Trouble is, that makes the total $130 million - so the planning for cost overruns may be already underway.

Yes, donations are expected to pay for 30 million dollars of the St. Francis Hospital expansion. Did the managers miss the town hall meetings in August - when people demanded health care reform with NO public option?

Isn't it fair to say the public will pay for this makeover, whether they "donate" to the hospital or not? If I give to the St. Francis expansion fund now, can I get a guaranteed discount on one of those 230 private rooms later?

St. Francis President and Chief Executive Robert Granger explained several reasons why the renovation is needed. For instance, hospital admissions are up 27 percent in the last five years. The number of surgical procedures has nearly doubled. Granger is counting on you, Columbus -- so keep on getting sick.

Robert Granger also told the TV news St. Francis needs a renovation because of base realignment at Fort Benning. This seems strange, considering planning is underway for a new Martin Army Hospital. I thought government-run health care is supposed to put the private sector out of business - and if they ever bring back the draft, it might happen around here.

That's what strikes me as curious about the big St. Francis announcement. Doesn't a $110 million hospital expansion increase the cost of health care -- especially if it's based heavily on borrowed money? And doesn't such a step by a private agency justify the argument for government-run health coverage? Which, of course, is borrowing plenty of money already?

The St. Francis expansion is only a proposal at this point, and needs Georgia state approval. But making the planned improvements by 2011 will mean....

+ An estimated 150 new jobs. But Robert Granger says they'll all be construction jobs, over the next five years. So we'll have plenty of new private rooms, but the same old nursing staff.

+ Another 20 emergency room beds, increasing capacity by 40 percent. This is why Columbus State University can't move beyond club football yet.

+ A new parking lot with 400 spaces -- perfect for employees on weekdays, and Ryan's buffet customers on weekends.

+ A new auditorium with 324 seats. Since this is St. Francis Hospital, Pacelli High School will have first rights to use it for stage shows.

By the way, suppose Columbus Regional announced this sort of expansion proposal. Since it relies in part on city funding, how would the mayor and council respond? There probably would be calls for something the St. Francis project list curiously does NOT have -- a new Sickness Prevention Director.

-> Our other blog starts with poker, then goes in directions you might not expect. Readers from around the world visit "On the Flop!" <--

E-MAIL UPDATE: We really didn't consider the deadly Georgia storms anything to joke about. But someone sent us a message titled, "Mine, Mine, All Mine"....

I cannot believe no one has mentioned if Gov Perdue has tried to take measures to make sure any of the Flood water does not leave the City of Atlanta, let alone the state of Ga.

If Sonny Perdue tried to do something, it didn't work. My Tuesday morning Riverwalk run downtown found the Chattahoochee River only one to two feet below pavement level. I'd say it was perfect for ducks to swim - but uh-oh, the usual waddling ducks along the riverbank were missing.

Flood gates were opened at West Point Dam and Lake Oliver, to handle excess water from the Chattahoochee River. That probably will put parts of the Riverwalk underwater for awhile. If the threatened shrimp near Apalachicola can't make a full recovery from this, maybe people in northwest Florida should move on to something else.

Did you see the pictures of Atlanta's flooded East Lake Golf Club? The PGA Tour Championship is supposed to start there Thursday. It's hard to advise a golfer to avoid the water hazard when the entire course is a water hazard.

And somebody's gotta say it: who was the alleged genius in Tennessee, who dared someone to go swimming in a flooded ditch to win five dollars? It reminds me of what Neal Boortz once called the "famous last words of a redneck - y'all watch this."

(Hmmmm, you know - the man who made that dare ought to be forced to appear on every episode of "Wipeout" next season.)

With best wishes to everyone north of here, let's check other Tuesday topics:

+ An "Honor Flight" took 100 local World War II veterans to see the memorial built for them in Washington. One person who helped with the journey told the noon news he considers those veterans the "greatest generation we'll ever have." Translation: once they're dead, our country could be doomed.

(WLTZ's Stephanie Tiso went with the veterans on the Honor Flight to Washington. I hope those frisky octogenarians stayed on their best behavior - and didn't offer to "discharge some rounds" in her direction.)

+ Columbus Council approved an "overlay district" along Victory Drive. There's a cheap joke about nightclubs and prostitutes waiting to happen here, but I refuse to write it....

+ Columbus Council also considered a fare increase for riding METRA. The cost could jump from $1.25 to $1.30 on 1 October - and there's no time to bring in the band Nickelback for a protest rally.

+ WBOJ-FM had "Teen Advisors Night," in which I learned Japanese television shows a version of the children's game "Red Rover." Tokyo needs a National Football League franchise more than it realizes.

+ Instant Message to Longhorn Steakhouse: Aw c'mon - a sirloin steak with both bacon and whiskey? Are you trying to drive ALL the serious Christians away?

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

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