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Prudent judgment must be used regarding health care

Published April 11. 2011 05:00PM

Dear Editor:

The article in the March 29th issue of the Times News on Coordinated Health was interesting, but its content provided by the business, deceptive.

Allow me to mention that I am a member of the board of directors for the Blue Mountain Health System. I write this letter as a concerned community member and my opinions should not be assumed to be that of the health system's board of directors, as individuals or as a group.

Carbon County is blessed with two local community hospitals that employ nearly 1,000 people in our county. I believe Blue Mountain Health System may be the largest employer in the County if not one of the largest.

As a not-for-profit organization, the hospitals of the Blue Mountain Health System and its programs and services located throughout the area, care for thousands of people each year regardless of their insurance coverage or their ability to pay out of pocket. Its mission is to provide quality care to anyone who comes to the hospitals for their medical care. Any profit the health system would make must be turned back into the hospitals for capital equipment and staffing.

The creation of the Blue Mountain Health System was in response to the same economic challenges as other not-for-profit hospitals across the nationincreasing labor costs, higher malpractice insurance premiums, increasing costs of pharmaceuticals and supplies, and declining reimbursement. Through the dedication and untiring efforts of the staff, the hospitals are finally at a point where the residents of Carbon County and its surrounding communities have two excellent, high-quality health care facilities that are governed by a local board of directors whose mission is not money but providing care for our residents.

In contrast, Coordinated Health is a for-profit company whose purpose is to generate money for their investors and there is nothing wrong with that it is just a different mission. The question really boils down to: Can Coordinated Health build a health care campus in Mahoning Valley? The answer is: Certainly. But that is really not the main question, the question is SHOULD THEY?

Is there really a need for this kind of facility in Carbon County despite the rosy picture painted by those from Coordinated supporting this project who talked about adding jobs and tax revenue?

According to the Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania, there has been a rapid growth in Pennsylvania of for-profit, freestanding ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs), many physician-owned. In addition, as complex medical and surgical procedures move into multiple settings, patientsespecially Medicare beneficiariesincorrectly assume that they will be equally protected by patient safety standards and quality monitoring. ASCs are subject to less demanding standards than hospital outpatient departments. These centers generally only treat patients with insurance. The increase of limited-service health care providers leaves community hospitals burdened with treating the uninsured, the poor, and the most seriously ill (and costliest) patients.

Years ago there was a law which required a Certificate of Need (CON) to demonstrate that there was a need for such a health care facility in an area where a proposed facility was to be built. Those who wanted to build opposed CONs, but in the end it did, in fact, stop the incredible OVERBUILDING of Hospitals, MRI centers, Dialysis Centers and other facilities which add to the high cost of health care by utilizing and promoting whatever their facility was delivering.

We all know the law of unforeseen consequences which occurs every time a new proposal is approved without a careful review. I am hopeful that the County Commissioners, the Mahoning Valley Supervisors and the PA Department of Health will take their time and review this new proposal to consider the unforeseen consequences that the building of this surgical facility will have on the not-for-profit, community hospitals that have been serving the residents of our community for over 100 years. With the uncertainty that exists in today's health care environment coupled with the enormous cost the current system is imposing, it is more important than ever to exercise prudent judgment in any decisions regarding the delivery of health care in our county.

Louis Sportelli, D.C.

125 Delaware Ave

Palmerton, PA 18071

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