Citizens in Banks and Jackson counties should allow themselves some optimism about the future of local health care following the completion last week of the sale of BJC Medical Center to Restoration Healthcare.
The facility is a major employer, an economic engine for Commerce in particular, and the entire area in general. But more importantly, BJC Medical Center is a crucial resource for meeting the health care needs of local residents. Like most other rural hospitals, its caseload is heavy on the Medicare and Medicaid side, and it provides a lot of indigent care, which makes survival challenging. Those circumstances have contributed to the demise of more than 600 rural hospitals in the U.S. since 1987.
Restoration has a good track record with small hospitals, and its ownership — which is shared by nine local physicians — opens the door for the medical center to prosper. The then-pending sale made it possible for BJC to attract a new general surgeon. New ownership also provides the stability needed to recruit more primary care physicians and more specialists to the area, and physicians who have a financial investment in the medical center have a strong incentive to make sure it is properly managed so that patients receive the best care possible. That is job one.
Still, Jackson County remains among the fastest growing counties in America. That growth potential is attractive to young doctors looking to begin a practice, just as it is to companies seeking to expand or relocate manufacturing facilities. A stable, respected hospital will also encourage more doctors and more specialties to locate in this area, which will reduce the need for local residents to travel out of the area for medical care. It will certainly boost the ability of Banks and Jackson counties to attract business and industry as well.
BJC Medical Center has always been crucial to Banks and Jackson counties. Restoration Healthcare’s acquisition of the medical center stands to breathe new life into one of our biggest assets to the benefit of citizens of both counties.