Blackhawk's purchase of hospital is great news

By JOHN WEED, MD Rockdale Hospital District Board Chair

Rockdale Hospital District is pleased to announce that Blackhawk Healthcare has started the process of constructing a new facility in our community.

Over the past four years we have seen our medical community grow from a small rural facility with only four local, fulltime providers to the current operations with 11 primary care providers and 15 specialty services.

We have acquired new technology with state of the art CT, MRI, ultrasound, Nuclear Medicine and our most recent service, a cardiac catheterization laboratory.

We have expanded our clinic capabilities with new facilities and providers to our current capacity of 45,000 visits per year compared with 12,000 visits per year four years ago.

During the last four years Blackhawk has invested over $6 million in improvements and they now have a payroll of over $8 million a year.

They have grown some services from part-time to full-time, such as cardiology and orthopedics.

In July, Blackhawk Healthcare acquired Bastrop's Lakeside Hospital, which will provide more opportunity to share services.

Also, the new facility will be totally owned by a for-profit company, which means the entire facility, land and improvements will be additions to our local taxes.

When considering the coming changes, remember that the district once "collected" a property tax of 48 cents on the $100 valuation and the growth we have seen has been accompanied by the elimination of all property taxes.

Bright future The future is even brighter. It is now in the hands of the leaders of our district as to what that future could be for the hospital district and our community.

First, do we need a district? This is a good question and the answer rests with the hopes and dreams of the citizens of Rockdale. The answer needs to take into consideration several facts about a district:

First, as long as the district exists, it is responsible in some manner for the prov ision of some indigent care. The simple answer would be for the district to go away, but the Indigent Health Care Act is state law and the indigent patient designation would not go away. Those patients would then become the responsibility of the county.

Furthermore, the law allows the district to cap the indigent care responsibility to $3,500 per year. The county has a much higher responsibility. Therefore, dissolving the district increases the tax burden on everyone paying county taxes.

Perhaps a better reason for keeping the district is the opportunity it could provide in the future. Again the community needs to decide on the proper direction for the Hospital District, but at a time when our economy has taken a tremendous hit wouldn't it be nice to grow a business which is already in existence.

We believe geriatric care and retirement are a great potential for our future economy. Our community has the elements in place with inexpensive housing and an outstanding health care facility; we believe we can build on this and Blackhawk is interested in partnering in some manner to make this happen.

Finally, we as board members would like to thank the community for being patient with us during hard times and so supportive of us recently as our healthcare system has shown such improvement.

The future could be very bright for our community and we need your input as to what that future should look like for Rockdale Hospital District.

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2009-10-29 digital edition

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