Guest view: Memorial vs. St. E's means St. Louis wins

March 22, 2014 

The word "synergism" means the total effect is greater than the sum of the individual effects; e.g., one plus one makes three. Wouldn't it be great if our two hospitals would apply this theory? As we speak, Memorial and St. Elizabeth are each planning to build another hospital, both in O'Fallon. One has already broken ground. They continue to compete for patients. However, if they combined and built one larger complex, "synergism" would definitely occur.

* Costly duplication of expensive technological equipment such as surgical equipment, diagnostic radiology, vascular/cardiac labs and information technology could be avoided. Pharmacy, medical supplies, laboratory, dietary, laundry, engineering, housekeeping, communications and security are a few more examples of combined economy of scale that would result. Is this not the trend we see with business consolidation?

* Physician recruitment would be much more successful and competitive. The existing family practice training program supported for 30 years by St. Elizabeth could be expanded to surgery, pediatrics and obstetrics. Southern Illinois University and the University of Illinois medical schools are looking to partner with community hospitals for training programs in rural areas. New graduates tend to stay where they are trained. At present, only 8 percent of Illinois graduates practice in underserved areas across the entire state. More training positions are needed in rural community hospitals as the U.S. is facing a critical doctor shortage, which will only worsen with the baby boomer influx and the addition of 40 million patients through the Affordable Care Act.

* Jobs would probably increase as more patients would stay on this side of the river instead of crossing for presumably better care as they are now doing. Many of us and our children were born at St. Elizabeth or Memorial and prefer to stay local if the services seem comparable to large St. Louis hospitals. Both hospitals have already partnered in our community Cancer Treatment Center in Swansea. Ideological differences did not stand in the way.

* United hospitals work. Seventeen years ago, St. Joseph Hospital and Candler Methodist Hospital, located in Savannah, Ga., formed a united health care system successfully. Barnes, Jewish, Missouri Baptist and Christian Northeast understood synergism and united for the greater good rather than competing with each other. Government money for health care, research and medical education is being drastically cut because we cannot afford to spend as we have done in the past. The prediction, based on growth rate, is by 2020 one half of the average family budget will be for health care unless we change our present pattern.

A Memorial-St. Elizabeth Regional Medical Center East would create a great hospital complex that would implement cost savings by avoiding duplication and attract physicians and outlying hospital referrals that are now flowing to out-of-state hospitals.

May God add his blessing to this letter and your consideration.

Morris A. Kugler, M.D., is a surgeon at Sparta Community Hospital.

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