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Health care is key to economic healthPosted Monday, June 18, 2012, at 5:47 PM
I ran into a friend at the farmers' market a couple of weeks ago, someone I hadn't seen in months. He said his job had him traveling all over the western U.S., and he was not home for long between trips. He described the wonderful places he'd seen, but then he noted that none of them was without drawbacks: horrendous traffic jams, bone-dry terrain, etc. He said, "I've never been so glad to live in Marshall."
I haven't traveled nearly as far lately as my friend has, but his comment reminded me about one thing I really appreciated about the recent public meetings hosted by Marshall-Saline Development Corporation and Zimmer Real Estate Group was part of the economic development planning process.
The meetings I attended included a good deal of SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats), and that always involves some useful critical self-evaluation. Facing up to our weaknesses as a county is a necessary step in seeking ways to address them and solve problems.
Just as important, though, is the listing of strengths -- the characteristics of the community that we can build upon. As important as it is to be aware of problems, it's also good to be encouraged by successes.
With that in mind, I was glad to receive information recently about Fitzgibbon Hospital's contribution to the health and economy of the county.
The document notes that while pursuing its goal of "improving the health of the community," the hospital makes a big contribution to the local economy. The total estimated economic impact of the hospital is nearly $28 million annually.
It's one of the county's biggest employers, with a total in April of 592 employees at the hospital and its various clinics and other facilities.
What's most encouraging to me, though, is the fact that the hospital continues to grow both the physical plant and the programs it offers, which suggests that it refuses to hold still as the world of health care and the needs of the community rapidly change.
The Community Cancer Center was the biggest recent addition, at least in terms of community participation in the project and, based on anecdotal evidence, on the quality of life here. We published a letter to the editor recently expressing appreciation for that facility. As many people testified during the capital campaign for the center, the stress and expense of driving to Columbia or Kansas City was a huge burden on local cancer sufferers and their caregivers.
The new center eased that burden, and easing burdens is what a good health care facility does.
Fitzgibbon isn't our only resource, either. Anyone who read our 2012 Health & Fitness magazine might have seen Maggie Menderski's story listing the wealth of services provided by the Saline County Health Department. And Slater recently took the initiative to develop the Akeman-McBurney Medical Clinic.
I don't know what role health care will play in the Zimmer report that will help shape the county's economic development efforts, but it looks like we've got a good foundation on which to build.
As baby boomers age, health care is going to become more and more critical to the well being of every community. If Fitzgibbon continues in the direction it's going, we've got a good chance to be one of the communities that adapts well to the future.
This probably would have been a more timely comment for Hospital Week (May 6-12), but I missed it. I hope "better late than never" will do.
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Eric Crump is a former editor of The Marshall Democrat-News. He lives elsewhere now but still loves Marshall and Saline County. He's trying to catch up on all the stories he should have written while he was on staff.
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