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Waiting on details of hospital's plans

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Editorial: Jan. 20, 2013

ISSUE: Hardin Memorial Health's master facilities plan

OUR VIEW: Once made public, HMH should seek feedback

During a panel discussion at a recent Hardin County Chamber of Commerce luncheon, Judge-Executive Harry Berry spoke in general terms about a multi-year master facilities improvement plan currently in development for Hardin Memorial Hospital.

Speaking to the audience gathered, Berry connected the plan to the hospital’s goal to increase the number of private patient rooms, improve its facility entrances, and upgrade its existing medical and physician departments.

Since that luncheon, the hospital hasn’t made public the specifics of the plan nor its overall cost estimates.

Asked about the details, hospital Marketing and Public Relations Director Michelle Murphy said HMH isn’t quite ready to go public with the plan. Too many loose ends remain and there’s a chance something might change, she said. Murphy did offer, however, that the plan’s goals and objectives directly tie to specific requests and concerns made by hospital patients and visitors over time.

Although the details aren’t known at this time, the plan isn’t a complete mystery. The community as a stakeholder in the hospital’s financial operation should see and understand it to be an important component of the hospital’s strategic plan.

In early 2012, the hospital’s Board of Trustees approved a multi-year plan built around five primary improvement objectives. These objectives focus on hospital services, its facilities, the care and treatment programs offered, and the recruitment and retention of its physicians. At that time, HMH President and CEO Dennis Johnson referred to the adopted plan as the hospital’s road map to becoming the premier health care provider of choice for patients and their families, physicians and hospital staff.

Berry and Murphy disclosed that the plan will significantly increase the number of private rooms, potentially doubling the current number, according to the judge-executive. However, Murphy said she isn’t sure that a certificate of need would be necessary for the plan – something required by the state for any project involving an expansion or increase in bed numbers. The plan does not include projects to expand total bed count, but will convert current semi-private rooms to private rooms.

While certainly a step toward improved comfort, convenience and discretion for patients and families, we hope this part of a final plan won’t create room access issues for patients down the road.

Another aspect of the plan discussed involves changes to the hospital’s entrances. Rerouting visitor traffic currently flowing from the hospital’s parking garage through the Emergency Department to the main lobby to another, more convenient entrance would be a big improvement. We hope the entrance improvement aspects of the plan are prioritized ahead of any other plans geared at simply aesthetically upgrading lobby areas.

It’s understandable why hospital administrators and trustees don’t want to get too far ahead of themselves in making the plan public. Once they’re ready though, we suggest giving the public ample and accessible opportunity to provide feedback. We look forward to learning the details of HMH’s facilities master plan, including the costs and time frame targets, soon.

This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise's editorial board.