Thursday, August 20, 2009
Washington Township Hears from Wishard
At last night's Washington Township Democratic Club meeting, Health and Hospital President and CEO Matthew Gutwein and Dr. Lisa Harris, CEO and Medical Director of Wishard Health Services, laid out a comprehensive case for supporting the construction of a brand spanking new Wishard in the referendum on November 3.
Let's get this out of the way. Last year, this would not even be up for a referendum, but it is this year because, as one elected official has said, "(State Senator)Luke Kenley said so." Don't blame Wishard. It's not their fault. I'm sure they'd just like to take the federal money with the money they have and build the new hospiatl, but they can't. They have to follow the law, and they will. The referendum cannot wait either. There is just a limited amount of time to get the funds necessary to build the hospital.
The referendum proposal, that has earned the support of the Marion County GOP, the Marion County Democratic Party, the Indianapolis Star, the Indianapolis Business Journal with other endorsements to come, has run into protests from those "Had Enough" voters in Marion County that feel taxed to death. The focus of the "Had Enough" movement in 2007, Greg Ballard, as well as Democrats like Andre Carson are supporting the passage of this proposal at the referendum.
Certainly, I can understand where people would feel taxed out. We have two stadiums sitting downtown that we are struggling to afford to keep functioning. Property tax reform has been on everyone's mind since the Republican-controlled General Assembly (at the time) removed the inventory tax and left nothing to replace it thus placing the full burden of local government funding (from schools to fire departments) on the property taxpayers. Heck, my taxes have been so hard to figure out, I don't even know if my mortgage company is sure what is going on. I'm certainly not, and I know the Treasurer and the Assessor well! Sometimes I wonder if they know what's coming at them!
Back to the referendum at hand. Doing nothing is not an option. If we fail to deal with these very real issues at the current Wishard Hospital, then we will be dealing with a city that has no Wishard Hospital. I don't like to fear monger, but I believe Gutwein when he says it. Parts of the current Wishard are nearing 100 years old. Dr. Harris went through a presentation showing the history of Wishard. One of the early buildings in the complex was an open ward building that was constructed in 1914. It's still being used, albeit in a different form, to serve patients today. Operating rooms can't support necessary equipment because the rooms are just not big enough, and the patient beds are overflowing at 15 percent OVER what is generally termed as "full". The infrastructure...the pipes...the stuff you don't see is just falling apart. It just can't be fixed.
The hospital is struggling and straining to keep up with an ever-increasing patient load where only 6 percent of those patients, according to Gutwein, have commercial insurance. Having had close personal friends that have had Wishard provide services to them, I can tell you that Wishard saves lives. Closing the hospital down, which is a VERY REAL POSSIBILITY if nothing is done, would be a disaster for those folks that need the Wishard services the most.
There is a chance that sometime you might need Wishard's services. The sometimes-maligned hospital is the home of one of the nation's best level one trauma units. It is the home of a state-of-the-art burn unit. It is also the home of Indiana's only psychiatric emergency room. The hospital also serves public safety by providing care to those incarcerated folks with special units designed to keep the public safe from the jailed who are receiving services.
Wishard has the money. Gutwein says they have done the research and that it's possible that the $754 million price tag will actually fall. He says the time to build is now despite the economic nastiness. The project, if approved, would provide what Gutwein says is "hundreds and hundreds and hundreds and hundreds" of jobs. It would be one of the largest construction projects in the state and along the lines of a Lucas Oil Stadium construction.
Yes, there are those that would say that the current Wishard could be renovated or that Wishard can be moved to a facility like the old St. Francis Hospital in Beech Grove. Another proposal would have Wishard torn down piece-by-piece and rebuilt on its current site. That proposal, according to Gutwein, tips the scales as the most expensive project on the docket.
When the referendum passes and the new hospital is built, the old Wishard would be abandoned and would be the concern of IUPUI, according to Gutwein. The spot where the new Wishard would be built is just east of the current Roudebush VA Medical Center. The old Larue Carter Hospital and the old Board of Health Building now sit on the property. Gutwein said there just aren't 60 acres of land in Indianapolis like this real estate...which is just west of the current Wishard Hospital. The current land is owned by IU, and the land Wishard is on now would be swapped with the university to get access to that land. Gutwein said that keeping the hospital adjacent to the IUPUI campus allows the Indiana University School of Medicine to continue its partnerships with Wishard. He says IU proposes that the old Wishard land could be used for new research facilities.
If you don't believe me, go to Wishard's website about the project. The URL is www.wishardfacts.org. I left out a lot. If you get a chance to see this presentation, it will open your eyes. We need a new Wishard Hospital from the ground up. The old one will not continue to sustain the high level of care that the patients and clients deserve. This project is funded, it's "shovel ready", and, most importantly, according to Gutwein, it won't raise your taxes.
It needs your support! Get educated and then join me in voting YES on the Wishard referendum. Wishard makes this community better, and we don't want to be like other big cities that have closed the only place that some people have to get necessary treatment. In 2013, I hope that will be a new Wishard Hospital.
All written content copyright of Jon E. Easter or the individual guest poster.
Reader comments are moderated.
The views expressed on this blog are the views of the individual contributor and are not necessarily the views of any Democratic organization, school district, or neighborhood association.
This blog is not affiliated with the Democratic National Committee, the Indiana Democratic Party, or the Marion County Democratic Party.