Sedliner got it wrong on Bothwell

By John Dawes, BRHC President and Chief Executive Officer Guest Columnist

June 17, 2014

“A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” I’ve always liked this quote from Winston Churchill — mainly because it’s the gritty truth.

If you’re a Sedline reader — and most people who read the paper are either because it’s our amusement for the day or we want to see the latest juicy barb being tossed — you may have read about our “empty” new buildings.

Before rumors can spread any further, the truth (pants on) should be shared.

The truth is Bothwell’s Board of Trustees wisely decided five years ago the hospital needed to build an office building to attract new physicians to the community, and we needed to invest in better cancer and cardiovascular programs for the community because they are our two most common and most serious diseases. Both projects have been significant successes.

The truth is the days of a newly minted physician moving to town and opening an office or taking over a retiring physician’s practice are long gone. Operating costs are higher, regulations are more burdensome, returns are lower, and physicians entering the workforce today want a more balanced life with family time. More than half of all physicians today are employed by a hospital or health system, and the competition to recruit them to smaller communities like Sedalia is brutal. Less than one in 10 will even consider a community of less than 50,000, so we have to put our best face forward and part of that is having desirable office space for them to practice.

The truth is since opening the Bothwell Healing Arts Center in August 2011, we have recruited 12 new physicians and now occupy 75 percent of the building. Negotiations are under way with additional primary care physicians and specialists. The intention was never to occupy the entire building immediately. We wouldn’t be very good stewards of the hospital’s resources or the community’s health if we weren’t planning for future growth.

The truth is we have a new cardiologist, a new cancer physician, and we’ve seen double-digit growth in the programs housed in the Canon Center for Cancer & Cardiovascular Care. An estimated 200 people a day receive services there. We call that a success.

The truth is your hospital has faced some daunting financial challenges since the passage of the Affordable Care Act. I don’t know of a hospital or health system that hasn’t. In the early days of the ACA, it was projected we would lose an estimated $22 million in reduced reimbursements from enactment until full implementation in 2019. Now, it’s looking like it will be closer to $35 million. This isn’t political commentary on the Affordable Care Act. If you’ll allow me to loosely quote Tennyson: “Ours is not to reason why.” Instead, ours is to rise to the challenge and do what we must to make sure this community has affordable, high-quality health care.

In the past year, we’ve trimmed our workforce by less than 6 percent. Moves such as these are difficult, but fortunately we were able to do it mainly through attrition and not filling vacant positions.

Here’s what I hope this truth can help accomplish: I hope that now our pants are on, we can roll up our sleeves and work together to make this community a better place. I hope you’ll help us by making Bothwell and local physicians your health-care provider of choice, that you’ll tell us when we do well, and tell us when we don’t because that’s how we grow and improve.

I’ve been in health care administration for a long time and have worked at a lot of different hospitals. I can say, without a doubt, the staff at this hospital are committed and care more about the health and welfare of this community than any I have seen anywhere. Let us prove that to you.