Posted: July 15, 2019 by Kelly Murphy-Redd
What does the healthcare community look like?
It includes hospitals, clinics, surgery centers, imaging centers, individual provider practices, pharmacies, medical supply companies, in-home healthcare providers, nursing homes hospice, and mental health facilities.

Often, healthcare is one of the largest employers in a region. Fort Walton Beach Medical Center, Twin Cities Hospital, North Okaloosa Medical Center and White Wilson Medical Center combined are the second largest employer group in Okaloosa County. (Public and Private Sector) Healthcare jobs are listed in studies as an ever-expanding opportunity.

David J. Robinson, in his article Health Care: An Economic Development Opportunity for Public Administrators, says that “Hospitals collectively are the General Motors of the 21st century.”

The cost of healthcare is always on everyone’s minds so it is no surprise that companies considering staying, expanding or relocating to an area are looking at those costs. They are also looking at quality.

There are published sources that rank hospitals with regards to costs. They are also ranked for safety, performance, reputation and more. A community should be aware of how their healthcare ranks.
Residents look at their own experiences and share those experiences with others. As we all know, people tend to share the bad more than the good.

What are your citizens saying about their healthcare experiences? Companies will hear about it. They ask a lot of questions of local residents about many subjects before they make location decisions.

For example, in Las Vegas, there is a saying the locals have about local healthcare: “Don’t get sick in Vegas.”
Individual experiences matter.
  • The woman who had surgery and luckily was admitted to the special women’s unit at the hospital. She was told that unit was much, much better than the regular surgical floor. She had two exceptional nurses and was very pleased with her care.
  • The caring ER doctor who prayed over his patient.
  • The heart patient that was admitted to the hospital, put in a room and left by themselves for 45 minutes not hooked up to a heart monitor. Not so good.
  • Nurses and doctors on back to back shifts to make more money. Are they providing the quality of care and safety needed?
  • Doctors who start walking out of the exam room before the patient is finished asking questions.
  • Providers who don’t offer information. Patients have to drag information out of the provider and that is assuming the patient knows the questions to ask. Often times they don’t.
It seems obvious for the medical community to regularly offer the following:
  • The steps for the treatment or procedure
  • What to expect
  • What to look for
  • Treatment and recovery time
  • Patient responsibilities
  • What’s next

It is not always the case.

Another huge issue is staffing. Understaffed hospitals with nurses having to care for too many patients is an issue. It’s been reported that Florida faces a nursing shortage. Northwest Florida State College has a waiting list for nursing degree seekers. Hospitals are recruiting nurses. Salaries need to be attractive to potential recruits.  Hospitals often participate in a community’s economic development efforts, just like Fort Walton Beach Medical Center, Twin Cities Hospital, North Okaloosa Medical Center, Sacred Heart and White Wilson Medical Center support our EDC. They may invest and help redevelop areas in a community. In his article, David Robinson cites the following example: “Nationwide Children’s agreed to undertake an $842,000,000 hospital expansion retaining 5,585 jobs and creating 2,400 jobs in exchange for a $15,000,000 Columbus Job Creation Tax Credit based upon a rebate of the municipal income tax, and priority for federal stimulus and other infrastructure funding.”

Communities must work to juggle all of these issues and more.

To reiterate:
  • Companies look at the quality and cost of healthcare when considering expansion and relocation.
  • Healthcare institutions are very often the largest employers and offer higher paying jobs.
  • The healthcare community and the wider economic development community should always be aware of how the smaller details inform the bigger picture. Listen to the patients.
  • Complex and competing issues affecting healthcare must be dealt with.
  • Healthcare institutions can participate in a community’s economic development efforts in creative ways.