ISSUE: HMH trustees issue request for proposals
OUR VIEW: Time for research, input is at hand
Often, when discussing HMH, local residents are referring to the series of buildings that defines the main hospital campus in Elizabethtown.
But HMH also refers to Hardin Memorial Health, which extends beyond North Dixie Avenue to 40-plus locations offering convenient care centers and specialized medical treatment ranging from diagnostics to oncology and from sports medicine to outpatient surgery.
Beyond its significance as the region’s premier healthcare provider, HMH also is a leading regional employer. With a payroll that far eclipses any local business or industry, the financial health of HMH strongly influences the region’s economy.
For the past 20 years, Baptist Health has provided management support to HMH. In addition to providing three key operational leaders, the Baptist team has been critical in development of a long-range business plan.
The strategic initiatives have helped effectively navigate the Obamacare transitions and led to acquisition of other health providers to secure HMH’s influence and market share. It also addressed clear patient-centered desires such as relocation and expansion of the Cancer Center, development of private rooms, including adding two floors on the North Tower, and the emergency department expansion underway now.
Nevertheless, the HMH Board of Trustees recently announced plans to explore new strategic partnership opportunities.
The request for proposals is not a slight against Baptist Health. In fact, HMH finds itself in an enviable position in any future negotiations thanks to its association with Baptist. HMH’s balance sheet reflects financial health in an industry where two-thirds of the operators show no profit or annual losses.
But expect these proposals to go beyond the simple management contracts of the past. HMH is looking for a partner to ensure its future.
In the fast-changing world of medicine, HMH also holds a unique position as a public entity. County-owned hospitals and successful standalone public medical institutions of its size are quite rare. In seeking partnership proposals, the HMH board is saying, in part, it needs assistance with future financial, facility, technology, operational and staffing needs.
A new partnership could take many forms, including a change in ownership for this local institution.
The proposals, which must be submitted by Jan. 10, will be reviewed by a steering committee comprised of HMH employees, outside consultants and board members with the Board of Trustees making the final decision.
Residents of Hardin County, who ultimately own the operation and elect the nine members of Hardin Fiscal Court who also serve as the hospital board, may know little about the ins and outs of hospital operations or the healthcare industry. But now is the time to learn – and to share your informed opinions with Fiscal Court.
Don’t wait for the political winds to take hold of this issue and shove the discussion into the reactionary realm of emotionalism. This matter will be resolved next year but the outcome will resonate locally for years to come.
The decision-makers here can expect to be second guessed but community input on the front end is preferable and proactive. It will take expertise, insight and knowledge to make this decision. Any critics, after the fact, will require none of those qualities.
In a recent guest column, Judge-Executive Harry Berry wrote, “I have great confidence that by the end of this process, we will find a solution that enhances HMH medical competence and capabilities, fortifies HMH’s capital base and ensures the continued local delivery of the highest-quality health care to the residents of central Kentucky for decades to come.”
The long-term health of the region’s most significant health-care provider should be everyone’s ultimate objective in this matter. As a community, let’s keep the focus on that target.
This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise editorial board.