Monday, August 13, 2007

The JS Continues to Pound Aurora

The latest article -- which follows a heated editorial and an already-skeptical initial article -- continues to hit the question of whether Aurora's plans to build new hospitals less than five miles from existing hospitals, which it's doing in both Ozaukee and Waukesha counties, will serve to help or hurt health care costs in the area.

Somewhat amusingly, the only response Aurora could muster to the charge is that it has an advisory board that includes community representation. So, community, don't say you didn't have any input on this!

As I explained last week, the move by Aurora is just profit-driven business. Likewise, the reporting on it by the Journal Sentinel is just good journalism.

But what I can't seem to figure is why, in the midst of its sharp stories on Aurora, the JS continues to give a free pass to actions by Columbia St. Mary's that are largely the same in nature and entirely the same in purpose.

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9 Comments:

Blogger Dad29 said...

A Billion.Two at 5% means interest-only of about $5 million/month.

August 13, 2007  
Blogger Dad29 said...

SOME of Co/StMary's actions are similar.

Consolidating Columbia and St Mary's Hospitals, on the other hand, is likely to lead to efficiency.

August 13, 2007  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

Consolidating (i.e., cutting beds by 33% and focusing on specialty care) in an area with "a ton of unmet needs," in the words of the CSM CEO, isn't going to do a thing to efficiency; unless, of course, you mean the efficiency of focusing treatment on privately insured patients.

August 13, 2007  
Anonymous jp said...

seth;

�Unmet needs� are a social issue.
Efficiency is an operational issue.
When we expand healthcare to cover �unmet needs�, with any luck it will be done in an efficient manner.
I am resisting the temptation to discuss efficiency and large government programs.

August 14, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The merger is not very efficient for many women who can't get crucial health care and prescriptions with the merger of a Protestant-founded hospital with a Catholic one.

Folks I know at Froedtert already are seeing the impact -- and getting to Froedtert from the East Side is never very efficient, even when our freeways and mass transit were at their best, such as that was (heading so far south to get so far back north shows a basic flaw in the freeway map from the start).

With construction, with cutbacks in the bus service, it's a mess for many women and their families who could be served at Columbia. And other crucial family services have closed elsewhere on the East Side, downtown, and nearby, as Columbia's urgent care (non-care for many) take over this side of town.

When the most population-dense area is being "served" with less service, more and more by a health care monopoly that allows the faith of its founders more than a century ago to determine who gets which care today, it's even more of a mess.

Too bad. I was born at Columbia and will miss it -- because don't be fooled by the order of the names in the merger. It's St. Mary's -- which has a wonderful history of service, too, as the first hospital in our fair city. But there was a reason why our forefathers and foremothers needed more hospitals then, and that reason remains now.

August 14, 2007  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

JP,

I don't doubt that Columbia St. Mary's, as an institution, could become more efficient through its Milwaukee County consolidation. But the claim that it's going to result in lower health care costs is another story altogether, particularly when you consider the emphasis on specialty care, which is the most expensive and increasingly expensive kind around.

In the end, it's nearly impossible not to see CSM's consolidation in Milwaukee County and expansion in Ozaukee County as profit-driven, which is the exact same motive that's driving Aurora to jump into the Ozaukee and Waukesha markets in spite of a lack of demand for more health care in those areas. And some may say there's nothing wrong with a business being profit-driven, and that's true, except -- as I explain in this post -- that says nothing about lowering health care costs and it raises some legitimate concerns about CSM's and Aurora's lucrative non-profit status.

And, bottom line for my post, CSM is essentially making the same type of moves as Aurora, yet it's getting a largely free pass by the state's biggest daily while Aurora is getting pounded by it.

August 14, 2007  
Anonymous jp said...

Seth;

Lower cost and quality (including specialty care) are separate issues. Cost effective care is the critical issue and profit is necessary for investment in new technology and facilities, which result in cost effective health care.

Throwing rocks at Aurora and others is easy, tackling availability and funding issues is difficult.

I worked in both for profit and non-profit health care and I can assure you the motivation is quite different.

August 15, 2007  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

JP,

Aurora is defending its move to Ozaukee and Waukesha counties by claiming it will increase coordination and, as a result, lower health care costs. It's right here in Aurora's press release.

So if Aurora is going to make that claim to defend its expansion, don't you think that opens up legitimate questions about the accuracy of that claim? And if the claim is inaccurate, it further raises the question of why Aurora is building new hospitals within 5 miles of existing hospitals (one of which is currently undergoing a $72 million expansion).

And there's nothing wrong with profits -- no one said that there is. The issue is non-profit businesses making profit-driven moves that simultaneously harm the community they pledged to serve when applying for that lucrative non-profit status. As I explain in this post, there are a couple of appropriate means for reforming this practice, and neither amount to simply cutting profits.

August 15, 2007  
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