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St. Francis Hospital Succumbs to Meddling, Archaic System

Posted Oct 23 2008 1:31pm

This week I read an obituary. St. Francis Hospital in Blue Island, Illinois succumbed after too much mission and no margins This is just the latest in a long line of safety net hospitals to close because of inadequate government payments and not enough other patients to whom to shift cost. St. Francis did not need to die. Illinois is one of the bureaucracy-rich states that still has heavy-handed central certificate of need laws, which suck innovation and nimbleness out of management and boards.

I thank my lucky stars that I worked in Wisconsin, which had the good sense to eliminate rate setting and CON when it was clear that those regulations did not contain costs, but just froze the status quo. As a result, Aurora Healthcare was able develop an integrated network throughout eastern Wisconsin, centered on patients of every status. The ability to shape the market allowed Aurora to merge three safety net hospitals into Aurora Sinai Medical Center, the only remaining downtown Milwaukee hospital, and a very good one.

My worry is that too many of my colleagues are afraid of the marketplace, and they look to regulations to protect them from bogeyman competitors. If healthcare in this country is going to achieve the great promise it has, we must adapt rapidly to what the marketplace is telling us. Too many remember the good old days and forget they were not all that good.

The Chicago Tribune obituary ended:

They need the maximum freedom to serve their patients, and to plan for a financially sound future. They need a free, thriving market. They don’t need a meddling, archaic state board to suck the life out of them.”

Very well said.

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