2008-05-01 / Opinion

Voting Yes May 6 Will Ensure Our Hospital's Future

Editorial Viewpoint
By Wesley Maurer, Jr.

Quality medical care in St. Ignace has long been recognized as a keystone in the development of the Straits area. It assures potential home-buyers that their young children will be close to emergency medical help when they need it, and convenient for routine medical consultation, testing, and treatment.

Hospitals also keep young families in the area, and it is these young families that are the life-blood of any community.

Older families, too, make sure good medical care is available when looking for a home to retire to, or when selecting a community near a new place of employment.

New businesses look for communities with good medical services, as do visitors, especially those with chronic illnesses such as diabetes requiring dialysis. From outlying communities, the hospital brings shoppers to our stores and diners to our restaurants. From distant communities, the hospital attracts visitors who stay in our motels.

Compared to other essential services, like good schools and progressive city government, Mackinac Straits Hospital has been a bargain. Except for the 1.2 mills that will subsidize long term care, the hospital pretty much pays its own way.

The four municipalities comprising the Mackinac Straits Hospital Authority will benefit greatly from the proposed new hospital, and other county communities, including members of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, also will benefit because services will remain close by and auxiliary clinics will provide convenient care.

Mackinac Straits Hospital is outdated, and the original structure, built in 1954, can no longer accommodate the significant changes in medical technology and delivery that have been made since then, nor can it be expected to accommodate future changes.

The proposal before us is a thoughtful solution to our future medical care.

For the past three years we have enjoyed the services of top-notch consultants that few communities in Michigan could attract or afford, including the former head of the Department of Community Health, a former state senator, one of the state's most effective lobbyists, and others who have laid out the best way for us to remain in the hospital business. They helped us because they like Mackinac, and they had a great idea that by sharing resources between the hospital and the Sault Tribe, we could attract federal attention and assistance.

Their plan worked because they worked hard on it, and because the concept is unique in this country. It probably will be a model for other communities who can share medical care with federally-funded military, veteran, and tribal programs, thus reducing the wasteful duplication seen today.

The St. Ignace News has covered the hospital board meetings consistently for three decades, and we have been impressed with the work of the board and of the consultants who have taken us this far.

The proposal to be voted on Tuesday, May 6, to transfer the assets held by the Mackinac Straits Hospital Authority to Mackinac Straits Health Systems, is just one step in completing this ambitious project. But right now it is the most important step, and it deserves the support of voters in the City of St. Ignace and in the townships of Moran, St. Ignace, and Brevort.

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