Press-Republican

March 10, 2013

Hospital essential to economy

ALVIN REINER
Press-Republican

ELIZABETHTOWN — As do hospitals in other communities, Elizabethtown Community Hospital’s (ECH) influence reaches far beyond the realm of medical services, according to an economic-impact study.

The report, prepared with assistance from the Healthcare Association of New York State (HANYS), highlighted the economic role ECH plays within its local community. It identified and measured the direct impact on the economy and demonstrated the ripple effect of the dollars the health-care sector brings into the community and the jobs it helps create.

In addition, it illustrated the benefit that the hospital provides to help ensure a safe, stable and healthy community.

Covers wide area

Though a community hospital’s primary purpose is serving thousands of individuals and keeping the public healthy, its impact includes many facets that extend beyond direct patient care. ECH’s service area encompasses more than 600 square miles in northeastern Essex County.

“The easiest way to look at it, if we weren’t here, what would be the impact? Sometimes people take a hospital for granted,” said ECH CEO Rod Boula.

ECH Director of Community Relations Jane Hooper said that people look for schools and hospitals when they consider where they may want to live.

“I recently got a call from someone who looked at our website and wanted a connection with a doctor,” Boula said. “He mentioned our hospital was held in high regard.”

The study shows community hospitals such as ECH have profound effects in increasing commerce through the people they employ, the impact of their spending, and the effect of hospital employee spending as well as the taxes they pay.

During the 2010 cost-report year, ECH employed 220 people in various capacities which resulted in a payroll of $10,278,000. The survey indicated that these employees spent $5,093,000 locally. During the 2010 reporting year, ECH supply purchases totaled $6,578,000 and capital spending amounted to $1,927,000, a total impact of $23,876,000.

In addition to the goods purchased, sales taxes affected economies by providing the state with $424,000, and locally $439,000 was realized.

Wages spent locally

Hospital employees use their wages to purchase goods and services, which creates income and jobs for other businesses. Dollars earned by ECH employees and spent on groceries, clothing, mortgage payments, rent, etc., generated approximately $15,371,000 in economic activity for the local economy (salary plus spending, coupled with those businesses making subsequent purchases).

ECH spends about $4,399,000 yearly on goods and services necessary to provide health care. Dollars spent generate approximately $6,578,000 for the local economy. ECH spending flows to vendors and other businesses which, in turn, also buy goods and services, thereby providing a ripple effect throughout the economy.

In addition to employee spending, ECH attracts visitors, including patients and their families, vendors and academic visitors who use a variety of community services, including motels and restaurants.

Construction projects generate local jobs and revenue, and result in improved health care delivery for the community.

Though some might consider it a small hospital, in 2012 ECH had 589 inpatient visits, 77,261 laboratory tests, 9,942 radiology exams, 31,934 physical-therapy treatments, 1,878 specialty clinic visits, 534 chemotherapy/infusion treatments and 5,358 ER visits.

“We want people to come here and use us for their tests. We provide a lot of services, which are of good quality, and have obtained their trust. We are always upgrading and adding new equipment such as a CT scanner. We curtail the costs to the patients by having this state-of-the-art equipment rather than the patient having their testing done elsewhere,” Boula said.

Free screenings offered

ECH and its auxiliary provide three free health screenings yearly to community members. These include cholesterol, blood pressure, oxygen levels, EKGs, vision checks, BMI, bone density, mammograms and osteoporosis screenings, as well as heart, cancer and outdoor-safety information.

Hospitals also play a role in educating the community in lifestyle choices on health and well-being. ECH and its staff contribute to a variety of community-service initiatives which include training for EMTs, medical directorship to St. Joseph’s Addiction Treatment and Recovery Center, an annual diabetes health fair, and CPR training to employees and community. Flu shots are offered for staff, family, board and auxiliary members.

The hospital’s Helping Hands program continues to assist patients who cannot afford to pay for health care. The hospital’s telecommunications equipment is made available to various organizations, including regional EMS and High Peaks Hospice, for training sessions and meetings.

The hospital’s board room hosts a variety of organizations for their weekly and monthly meetings. There are two annual scholarship programs awarded to students within the region pursuing a career in health care.

“About 100 students come through here on an annual basis. We want to be part of their first experiences and make it positive for them. This is also an investment for us as we end up with a pool of people who want to work for us,” Boula said.

The report concludes, “Community hospitals are critical to New York’s quality of life and to keeping communities healthy and vibrant. Elizabethtown Community Hospital is a major contributor to both the local and state economies and keeps families healthy and secure by providing needed health care services.”

Email Alvin Reiner at: rondackrambler@yahoo.com