To the Editor:
As my family and I have been watching the debate regarding the future of the hospital transpire, we've been hoping that common sense, reasoning and an honest debate would prevail. Unfortunately, we've seen little of that and much misinformation disseminated.
My wife and I have literally stared at one another in disbelief after reading some of the ignorant and misinformed comments made in the newspaper and postings on social media sites. Friends of Graham Hospital have been accused of lying and scare tactics; those making such claims should step back and look within to find the ones that are leading this city into a healthcare crisis.
Several letters to the editor have cited individual's experience in private industry. Authors have extolled their virtues as successful private businessmen, able to excel without tax dollars. None have cited their chosen field as healthcare. If any of the authors had experience with healthcare, they might understand that hospitals and physician offices can't be run as a private industry.
No other field has the same moral and ethical obligations. In no other industry is an individual allowed to walk in to a place of business, receive goods and services and walk out without paying. This scenario is a daily occurrence both at your hospital and physician's offices, but ethics demand that we allow it to happen without recourse.
Young County Citizens for Responsible Taxation (YCCRT) claim that $9.6 million in salary is too much to compensate the employees and can easily be reduced. The average daily census for the hospital is inaccurately cited (by greater than 100%) on the YCCRT website as evidence that salaries are too high. In addition to that inaccuracy, the YCCRT have failed to mention that the average salaries at GRMC are below the national average in many positions. As a result, some departments are facing staffing issues due to the lack of competitive salaries and this situation will ultimately cost more in the long-run.
Vacant positions that are integral to patient care must be covered by temporary agencies, which come at a premium. As an aside and a simple math lesson, a single day's census does not reflect the average, therefore a call to the hospital on a slow day means absolutely nothing. An exemption from Medicare and Medicaid payment reductions to hospitals and doctors was mentioned by one author. Apparently he did no research regarding, or has no understanding of, Medicare's SGR formula.
While an extensive explanation of the SGR, Obamacare, Medicare, Medicaid, underinsured and uninsured patients is beyond the scope of a letter to the editor, the SGR formula does indeed call for annual reductions in payments unless congress passes a "patch" on an all-too-frequent basis.
The scheduled payment cut for 2014 was set to be 24%, but it was fortunately again delayed by congress. Since Medicare and Medicaid pay doctors, albeit at much reduced rates compared to private insurance, common sense would lead one to conclude that they would be the only ones affected by cuts, not exempt from them. With the fiscal matters being the core issue in this vote, voters should be encouraged to take misinformed statements regarding exemptions and reimbursements with a grain of salt and seek the truth through their own research.
If a viable solution to the hospital, other than a taxing district, is not developed, the hospital will close. To be clear: without the hospital, your physicians will not be able to remain in Graham. Over 950 surgical and non-surgical procedures, countless radiology and laboratory studies, nearly 2,000 inpatient admissions and 9,000 emergency department visits took place at GRMC in 2013. Your physicians either ordered the tests or performed those procedures out of necessity to provide appropriate care for patients. Without GRMC's facilities being available to them, they cannot care for patients.
Situations in which doctors are left without a hospital have been likened to an engine without a car. A loss of one renders the other useless. Making a decision as important as that which faces the citizens of Young County demands each person do their own due diligence and draw an informed conclusion based on facts. Incoherent and unresearched misinformation will save neither money nor the hospital.
Contrary to what some may believe, GRMC is not a bank at which your money is being deposited and subsequently embezzled to be frivolously spent by a select few. The employees of GRMC are subject to the same taxes as any other resident and play a vital role in delivering quality healthcare, in addition to being a vital part of an important economic structure in Graham.
In the interest of full disclosure, my family and I live in Palo Pinto County. We pay hospital taxes there, but at a reduced rate compared to Young County. We do our day-to-day business, including shopping, work and school, in Graham, as well as receive healthcare from the physicians. Whether we remain part of the Graham community in any capacity or not, we hope for the survival of the hospital.
To that end, we pledge an annual donation to GRMC in the amount that represents the difference in hospital taxes between Young and Palo Pinto Counties, as long as I remain a practicing physician in Graham. Graham Regional Medical Center exists solely to provide for citizens, and as such, the citizens have the right to choose how they access healthcare. Graham is fortunate to have the facilities that allow residents to access quality care in their own backyard.
Support a healthy Graham and keep it that way.
Respectfully submitted, Michael T. Hay, MD