Published in the Iola Register on Feb. 22, 2013.

Letter to the Editor 2-22-13

Dear Editor,
The new hospital proposal is about the future and your view of that future. Is your glass half full or half empty?  This decision really comes down to whether you think we can be a viable community in the future without quality health care and the most efficient and effective health care facilities.
Seventeen years ago, Cloud County Health Center became an independent, non-profit entity, who had a positive (glass half full) mentality and felt the hospital could be operated effectively with no property tax support. With all the counties around us and throughout rural Kansas receiving annual property tax support, this board, administration, and staff decided the potential was here to go forward without becoming a county hospital. That has proven to be the right decision, and we now have a 17-year track record of being able to provide quality health care while functioning independently.
Now faced with an aging, inefficient, and functionally outdated facility, we have developed a reasonable plan, with a conservative cash flow projection that gives us the best opportunity to keep this off the property tax rolls as health care faces an uncertain future. The proposed building is very similar to hospitals built within the last few years in similar sized communities around Kansas. The sales tax is the fairest way to accomplish this, with everyone paying something, and without overburdening anyone.
The glass half empty crowd will always find reasons for worrying, delaying, and postponing difficult decisions. $26.8 million is a large amount, and the board, their auditors, and financial advisors have carefully studied and developed a repayment schedule that is reasonable and responsible. We all expect cuts to Medicare and government reimbursement will come eventually, but a new facility creates new revenue opportunities and operational efficiencies that just are not possible in the existing facility. The new facility is not an extravagant plan, but one that allows us to continue doing what we’ve proven can be done for the last 17 years.  
While our population has declined, the rate of decline in Cloud County has been much lower than most other rural communities. That is due, at least in part, to the efforts that have been made in the past to invest in good schools, infrastructure, and efforts to encourage a retail trade hub. It is hard to imagine we can continue that without good health care facilities, and it is now time to make another investment.
I hope you see our community, as Brenda and I do, with a glass half full mentality. We want our community not only to survive, but to thrive, and your YES vote for the new hospital will help this happen.

Phil and Brenda Gilliland