Local hospital, employees deserve your support

Our community is unique in many ways. Rich in history and proud of our contributions and accomplishments. Many of our important institutions have stood the test of time and continue that tradition still today. Marietta College, for example was established in 1835 and continues to flourish 184 years later producing excellent graduates for tomorrow’s workforce. It would be difficult to imagine Marietta without the college in our midst.

Other Marietta legacies have not fared as well. In the early 1970s, Union Carbide employed over 1,700 valley residents. While we treasure the legacy companies of Eramet, Ameriacs Styrenics and Solvay still today, our total employment has certainly declined from its previous peaks.

Healthcare is another industry changing quickly in our valley. I’ve been fortunate to serve our community as both a local pharmacist and as a hospital board member for over 40 years. Marietta Memorial Hospital and Selby General Hospital have never been more robust and necessary than they are today. That’s not true for the Parkersburg hospitals. I’m saddened each time I drive past the shuttered St. Joseph’s Hospital building. Specialty care at Camden-Clark Memorial Hospital has shifted more patients to Morgantown, W. Va. rather than caring for them here locally as they used to.

I commend the leadership and vision at Memorial Health System that has enabled this tradition of caring and world class care to continue locally. Many of you know our hospitals from time to time must renegotiate with large insurance companies for the payments we receive. Our current contract expires Dec. 31, 2019. We are negotiating with Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield right now for a new contract in January 2020. As chairperson of the Finance Committee of the Board of Directors currently and former board chairperson at both Selby General Hospital and Marietta Memorial Hospital, I can assure you the survival of your local community health system is at stake in receiving a fair payment from Anthem.

Many people I speak to around town confuse the growth going on in our health system for great financial success. That’s not true. We grow because more people in the Mid-Ohio Valley and beyond seek care in our system each year. They seek the access to great specialists and the quality care that can be found closer to home, with less travel. To serve our region, we have added more physicians and they need space to care for our community. Dr. Jonathan Krant, our new Rheumatologist is a great example of our continued growth. What you may not know is we have been reducing cost all over our system in order to be able to afford and support this growth.

I know healthcare is expensive. It’s expensive all over our nation in every community and that’s a discussion for a different letter.

Preserving a local health system is important to our community. When WVU acquired St. Joseph’s and Camden-Clark, they closed one hospital while raising prices 54% from 2012 to 2014 according to an article published Nov. 14, 2018 (google “when hospitals merge to save money patients pay more NY Times” to read for yourself). Being bought by one of the large systems didn’t improve care here but did raise the cost to employers paying the bills.

Please support your local hospital and help us build great and affordable healthcare right here at home.

Tom Tucker, Chairperson

Finance Committee, Marietta Area Health Care, Inc. Board of Directors

Memorial Health System