A special election in November will let voters decide if the city needs a new Wishard Hospital.MCANA also had Matt Klein of Indianapolis waterworks to speak on behalf of the City's proposed rate increase request of 35%, which was also a very informative presentation. WCTY taped yesterday's meeting and typically replays it for a few weeks in rotation with other meetings. Keep an eye out for it. And again, a big thanks to MCANA for allowing both sides to be heard.
Those pushing the plan say it won't cost taxpayers a thing, but opponents say there's no guarantee. Volunteers went door-to-door Saturday, asking Marion County residents to vote "yes" to building the new hospital in the November 3 election.
"We really need a world-class hospital to serve all the citizens of Marion County and, most particularly, those who are underserved, those who desperately need these facilities," said Gary Price with the group Citizens for Wishard.
"It's the stuff behind the walls that's 40, 50, 60 years old," said Tom Ringham, Wishard Associate VP of Facilities.
Employees say it's outdated, the rooms are too small for modern day medical equipment and the infrastructure is crumbling.
"It means that you may wait longer in the emergency department, because we have two or three rooms shut down due to a water leak," Ringham said.
But attorney Gary Welsh warns to be careful what you vote for.
"The referendum language doesn't tell you they're going to use the money to build a new hospital, it doesn't tell you how much money they're going to borrow, it doesn't tell you how much money the hospital is going to cost, it doesn't tell you how they're going to [need to] repay it," he said.
The Health and Hospital Corporation estimates it will need to borrow about $630 million to build a new Wishard. They need voters' permission to take out the loans, because if they can't make the payments, voters will - in higher property taxes.
But they say that won't happen, that the hospital brings in more than enough money to cover the loan payments of $38 million a year.
"We currently have a surplus this year of $51 million," said Dan Sellers, CFO and Treasurer of the Health and Hospital Corporation.
"Who's to say it's not going to cost a billion and a half? Oftentimes, these public works projects balloon out of control," said Welsh. "We saw that with the Central Library project that wound up costing $150 million, the cost of Lucas Oil Stadium.
The Health and Hospital Corporation says it will take 30 years to pay off the loan. Welsh says a lot could happen to the hospital's revenue stream between now and then.
"If we adopt a national health insurance plan where everyone is insured, then people can go to any hospital they want. They don't have to go to a county hospital like Wishard that focuses on providing care to the indigent and uninsured," Welsh said.
"The idea of more people having coverage just brings more people with coverage to us," Sellers said.
Meanwhile, the Indianapolis Star is back with its third Sunday editorial promoting passage of the Wishard referendum. Again, I don't think Star editor Dennis Ryerson had much credibility with the public going into this debate, but suffice to say what little credibility he had has been completely shot. Ryerson at least admits the possibility the adoption of the referendum will allow for higher property taxes, something he's been loathe to admit in the past. He insists we can afford it. "How does health care compare in value to, say, sports?," he asks. He says it's really not that much money for a project this century. Ryerson also buys into the false claims that by building now the interest rate will be lower and we'll avoid $50 million a year more in added costs. He completely scoffs off criticism that the ballot language misleads the public and fails to provide informed consent. "To answer the second query first, there's no way the money wasn't going to be common knowledge early on in an election with nowhere to hide," he writes. "As for the stated purpose of the expenditure -- to enable Wishard to continue to train future healers, care for patients suffering severe trauma and burns, and serve as a refuge for those who are 'seniors, poor, uninsured or vulnerable, regardless of their ability to pay' -- there is a certain precision there that goes beyond account sheets," he explains.
It's funny that Ryerson is devoting so much attention on pushing this issue with the public as if he's concerned the public isn't buying the proponents' arguments. The proponents have more than a million dollars to spend, have been able to illegally use government resources to promote its passage and have had overwhelmingly positive media coverage. The opponents, as I said earlier, have been given virtually no opportunity to address the views of the opposing side and have virtually no money to fight the referendum. To add to his hypocrisy, Ryerson defends newspaper bias in his column today. Not one single news article in his newspaper has presented the well-reasoned arguments of opponents. How's that for bias, Ryerson?