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  • Last modified 104 days ago (May 10, 2017)

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To our health

The new Hillsboro Community Hospital was unveiled to the public this weekend, with perhaps less fanfare than might have been warranted, given the nearly nine-year ordeal from promise to fruition.

Certainly, no one would’ve thought it pretentious in the least if a marching band, hundreds of balloons, and fireworks were part of Saturday’s open house. However, once the obligatory speeches were over, hospital officials did the right thing: They let the building, and the staff, speak for themselves.

Even more than the building, the staff shone brightest as wandering hordes of curious visitors peeked in every nook and cranny. Excited to show off their new digs, answers given to questions about rooms and equipment held a common thread: It’s not just about a new hospital, it’s about the quality of care that can be provided in it.

It was a joyous day at HCH, full of promise for the future, just as it should have been.

One day soon, a similar sort of event will take place in Marion, at St. Luke Hospital and Living Center. Nothing so ambitious as a brand new facility, but plans and fundraising for major renovations and expansion for the Living Center and medical clinic are well underway. Again, it’s all about the quality of care, and there will be reason to celebrate.

Both communities have supported hospitals throughout most of their histories, and as times have changed, so have their services. County residents have had choices, and they’ll continue to have them, although they often look vastly different from the 1920s, when the county was at the height of its population.

CEOs Marion Regier in Hillsboro and Jeremy Ensey can both take satisfaction from having steered their institutions safely through the rugged, oft-times unpredictable waters of health care change in recent years, but they both know the journey isn’t over.

As good as our hospitals look and function in the present, health care faces an uncertain future.

Critical access hospitals like ours live on financial shoestrings, and folks in the nation’s capital are toying with changing the rules, some sooner than later. Something that looks minor to an East Coast big-city senator could be much bigger to those of us in rural Kansas.

So what can we do to protect our access to health care in the county?

Economic development, plain and simple. A thriving economy that creates good jobs and attracts people to the county will do more to stabilize our health care environment than anything else.

Does that make you nervous at all? Perhaps it should, because the only crystal ball we’re seen that has numbers attached to it says the years ahead could be tough. Promises that things can and will get better are encouraging, but it’s going to take concerted commitment and effort to make them happen.

If you think we can leave this up to the folks with “economic development director” ahead of their names to take care of it for us, you’re wrong. They’re here to work for us, not instead of us.

Want to help keep emergency room access available in the county and help economic development?

Here’s a tip. Provide outrageously great customer service in your contacts with the public, be it business or government. Service with a smile and going the extra yard to help make lasting impressions. The person you don’t know could end up being your next door neighbor if their first impressions are fantastic; and if they’re not, they’ll tell everyone else they know what a bad experience they had.

We like to believe we’re friendly little communities, and for the most part, we are. But customer service is one-on-one, and if you’re the sole contact for someone from the outside, you are the community.

You’re Marion County ambassadors, and how you treat others can either sell us or sell us out.

On the flip side of that, there’s another simple thing you can do. When you receive great customer service, let people know you really appreciate it. Positives beget positives.

You’ll find plenty of information out there showing that great customer service improves the bottom line. It’s good business sense, and yet it’s too often dismissed as nonsense.

If we want to be lauding the praises of our health care options in 2027, we all have to get serious about economic development now, and serious begins with a smile.

-- david colburn

Last modified May 10, 2017

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