CPH is not simply government-run

Posted: Monday, September 06, 2010

Clearly, the Clarion's Sunday editorial "Central Peninsula Hospital: Government Run Health Care" (Aug. 29), strays from the mark. This evocative, thinly veiled chide slinks by a gamut of associated issues and then summarily announces: If you really believe: "No government-run health care" then Central Peninsula Hospital should be privatized.

Why the libertarian outcry after all these years? Conversely, "Is the Clarion really opposed to National Health Care?" Would they support an outright sale of the facility? For that matter, would they support the sale of our schools, roads, solid waste facilities? That would be much closer to a free market exercise than what's proposed. The current proposal devises a new emanation of a corporate-quasi public enterprise (the LHP Joint Venture model). The good folk of the Central Peninsula Hospital Service Area will simply have to ante up their accumulated and remaining asset, once the expansion bond is paid off ($36 million) to a new non-profit which will sit in as the new capitalized player in the JV. The KPB (i.e. taxpayers) ends up with $0. Why give our chips to a new player and walk away from the game simply because he says he can do better?

Our hospital is not government run health care. Quite simply, it's ours. We have, as a matter of necessity, built and expanded a facility for the use of private practitioners. No private entity came forward through the years to build one for us. There was no competition primarily because of market demographics. Much has changed and the hospital is finally operating in the black, hence the interest. Through five decades the taxpayers of the service area have always met the call for new and expanded facilities. What has changed in this demographic that assumes the people will not capitalize any further needed expansion of the facility? It's not really a question of philosophy, it's the questioning of a long history of control, commitment, and ownership.

We know our model has worked for us. Granted, we are a unique success in a sea of failures elsewhere by which we are being compared. Does that mean we too are absolutely doomed losers in some out year? The argument from the Hospital Board has been far less than compelling, and this recommendation, is a bridge too far.

The information gathered and disseminated by the board will be invaluable to the new Assembly in the months ahead. Some structural governing changes should occur if we are to maintain or enhance the current situation. That would include but not be limited to how the Board is appointed, length of lease term, provisions to JV for certain hospital operations (i.e. cancer treatment, cardiac care) etc. The no change option would eventually bring us out of the black and into the red. We might be just as well off to sell the hospital outright, cash in our chips and exit the game if the ensuing consensus decides for the status quo. Not a philosophical statement, simply a wise business choice.

Gary Superman represents Nikiski on the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly.

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