Not yet clinically depressed

Remember a few years ago, when every other phone call you received was about whether you were satisfied with your long-distance carrier?

Some product or service always seems to be on the verge of major upheaval. Grow or die. Expand gigantically or fade into tiny irrelevancy.

Think cell phones and how, for a time, every commercial and piece of junk mail focused on the newest and shiniest gizmo and messaging plan you could purchase.

The latest disposable item in American society appears to be health care.

Surely a huge portion of the rising cost of medicine, currently threatening to bankrupt the country, is attributable to the cacophony of ads for oddly colored and aptly named pills that have made life, oh, so better.

Have a slight pain in your neck? Just visit Dr. Feelgood’s brand-new, state-of-the-art clinic and pool hall for a free neck-transplant evaluation.

All this was fine when it simply involved junk easily tossed out of the mail or commercials easily zapped with a remote. When it gets concerning is when it happens closer to home.

Personally, I owe my life — quite literally — to two of the three hospitals that now seem poised to compete to become the one winner that provides most of the lab and other services associated with ever most closely affiliated clinics in Marion County. I was born at one of them; I was seriously ill as a 2 month old at the precursor of another.

What troubles me is not that they now appear poised to engage in a who-can-spend-the-most war to create the brightest and shiniest facilities in the county. What worries me is what happens when all the brightness and shine — and, more to the point, tax incentives for investment — begin to wear off.

We hope Newton Medical isn’t entering the Marion County market with the intent of stealing market share from St. Luke or Hillsboro Community. The three hospitals will be spending (or already have, in St. Luke’s case) tons of money to create the brightest and shiniest facilities imaginable.

The question is, will all three remain equally committed a few years from now? Or are some of them, like so many of the long distance and cable companies, here only for whatever loose change they can pick up before moving on?

Businesses like our newspaper, now approaching its 145th year serving the same community, are increasingly uncommon. We’ve had people take a run at us, and we think we’re better because of it. The difference is, we’re here because this is where we want to be, not because this is where we can make money.

We hope all three of the hospitals share that feeling and the same sense of long-term commitment to continuing to serve the community — not just in good times, but in bad times as well.

— ERIC MEYER

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