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Opinion Columns
For the week of Mar. 22 through Mar. 28, 2000

Planned medical
office building a critical complement for
St. Luke’s hospital

Commentary by EDWIN E. DAHLBERG

"We do not want to create nor do we believe this currently allowed use will create the urban sprawl some fear."

As the result of years of public debate and a special public commission's recommendations, the Wood River community invited St. Luke's Regional Medical Center to study the feasibility of constructing and operating a hospital that would serve the valley. Early in 1995, St. Luke's joined with representatives of the Wood River Medical Center, City of Sun Valley, and Blaine County to study how to make this community's vision of a single, quality-oriented medical center a reality.

All of the meetings, the study's findings and the subsequent negotiation discussions were conducted in public sessions. Throughout that process, it was clearly and consistently repeated that the ongoing success of this new hospital was dependent upon the success of the fund drive, the concentration of this valley's outpatient surgical and diagnostic services revenue in the hospital and an on-campus medical office building.

The importance of an on-campus medical office building to the new hospital's success was included in discussions and publicity as early as the summer of 1995. Discussions and publicity regarding site requirements and publicly reviewed financial feasibility discussions repeatedly discussed the importance of an on-campus medical office building to this new hospital's financial health. If the new hospital is not fiscally sound, its future operations would be at risk.

We identified the site and its plans before the May 1996 vote on the definitive agreement relating to this new hospital. We identified the need for a medical office building again in mid-1998 during the RD zone text discussions, and again later that year as we sought P&Z approval for the new hospital. In subsequent meetings regarding the future of McHanville, we also identified the need for this building.

If an on-campus medical office building is denied or delayed, we believe that this new hospital's fiscal health and the future quality of care we can provide in it will be negatively impacted.

On-campus medical office buildings benefit patient care in many ways ranging from emergency response times to more convenient and timely consultations with specialists. Other benefits were eloquently identified at a recent public hearing by Drs. Frank Fiachetti and Tim Floyd.

Ketchum understandably wishes that physicians with offices in its downtown core not relocate. The actual number of physicians we project would relocate to our campus is minimal in terms of Ketchum's total commercial space. This small loss could be viewed by Ketchum as a regional trade-off for the benefits of having a new, quality oriented and fiscally sound medical center located close to its residents.

We do not want to create nor do we believe this currently allowed use will create the urban sprawl some fear. The county's comprehensive plan is the tool to address that fear.

All that we at St. Luke's want to do is to operate the new hospital and medical campus in a fashion that is consistent with St. Luke's traditions of quality. That is why we were invited to this valley. An on-campus medical office building is a critical component in how we fulfill that tradition and plan to meet our pledge to this community.

We believe there are two healthcare elements at stake in the debate about allowing St. Luke's to operate an on-campus medical office building. First, the future quality of patient care. Second, the future fiscal health of the new hospital and our corresponding ability to operate a viable hospital in the valley.

We certainly hope that the community will support this needed project so we can fulfill our pledge to provide quality hospital care to the Wood River Valley.

Edwin E. Dahlberg is president and chief executive officer of St. Luke’s Regional Medical Center


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