South Peninsula Hospital planned expansion being misrepresented

Posted: Friday, June 27, 2003

If you don't know ask! The truth is out there.

There is a catchy ad making the rounds. It pushes an opinion, but like some ads for products or services, the claims made about the South Peninsula Hospital expansion don't stand up well to facts. The ad asks:

Q: How do you vote for something that you have no idea of the cost?

A: There's an estimate, developed from accepted standards on space needed for medical procedures or services delivered. This is then multiplied by Alaska construction costs, and some allowance for uncertainty is included. When construction bids are received, we'll have a much clearer idea of cost.

What happens if it bids are over $17 million? The same if your planned house addition cost more than expected. We'll look at what could be deferred, dropped or somehow done more cheaply.

If we thought the benefit of any remaining overrun exceeded the cost, we'd go before the borough and make that case (individual voters could then argue against or persuade their representative to act). If the assembly agreed, there would be another ballot for voter approval remember this ballot sets a limit for the amount of bonds to be sold. More can't be sold without voter approval.

Q: Do you know that over-rides will pass on to us, the taxpayers? The borough can raise the mill rate to cover expenses.

A: Read the last part of the answer above again carefully. Just because the borough "can" raise the mill rate, doesn't mean it will. Two years ago the mill rate was reduced from 2.0 to 1.75 mills based on bonding for future expansions.

In discussions with assembly members Milli Martin and Chris Moss, Mayor Dale Bagley and Finance Director Jeff Sinz, the message was very clear: operate a quality hospital within the existing mill rate or less, if possible.

Q: Are all the doctors and hospital personnel really supportive of this project? Ask them.

A: Come on! It's Homer; we have many opinions on any issue. Most doctors and staff do support the expansion; some wanted more; a few wanted something different. By all means, please ask them, but ask more than one.

Q: Private rooms are a luxury. Who can pay for them?

A: The majority of the acute care rooms will become private rooms. These rooms will provide greater privacy for patients and visitors and provide a more sanitary healing space. The charge to the patient for a single versus double occupancy will be the same.

Q: Making the claim that this addition should cover needs for the next 15 to 20 years is presumptive.

A: But it's based on data from the 1990 and 2000 census and later supplemental numbers. This data and demographic trends were analyzed twice by separate consultants for somewhat different purposes, and the methodology and conclusions were validated by a third consultant. This seems less "presumptive" than voicing a suspicion based on ... whatever.

Q: There is a need for some improvements and upgrades but let's be realistic!

A. We are being realistic. Many hours of dialogue between community volunteers, elected officials, physicians and staff have developed (with much compromise) a project that all feel is needed in this community. Now we bring this to the voters and ask for support of this expansion.

Dave Green, chair, South Peninsula Hospital Service Area Board

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