Union County Council recently authorized the go ahead for the Miracle League field transition construction at Timken Park. Union County Council also recently met with the Hospital Board for a financial futures update. I would like to take this opportunity to address those two headline-making events. I hope with a few words that I have sufficient writing skills to relate them to each other, to other events, and to Union’s future — our future, mine and yours.
A year ago after council approved the Timken field transition using independent, non-county funds, a number of volunteers jumped in, faced the challenge, and with the help of individuals from children to adults, civic groups, businesses, and foundations, essentially reached the ¼ million dollar goal ($250,000) in a year. This only happens with the right people in the right place at the right time for the right reason.
Union County, in concert with the Chamber of Commerce, the Economic Development Board, the School Board, all Union, Jonesville, Lockhart, and Carlisle municipalities in the county, USC-U, Spartanburg Community College, and other groups, recently signed on to address the challenges of Union becoming a Work Ready Certified Community. Becoming certified by meeting this challenge will enhance Union’s already competitive and successful economic development efforts. I was at a meeting recently that was Work Ready related. As I looked out and saw Kathy, Joe, Eric, Kevin, Andrena, Chump, and others around that room, I realized I was the oldest and had watched them all grow through our community and school system. I experienced a degree of satisfaction in that moment as I commented to them that I believe they represent the right people in the right place at the right time and for the right reason as our community approaches this challenge. I have no doubt that the Work Ready group and this community will meet this challenge just as the Miracle League challenge was met by their groups and the people of this community.
Another recent headline spoke of Wallace Thomson Hospital, our hospital, looking at ways to cut costs. The joint Union County Council/Hospital Board meeting was the background of the article. I am quoted in one of the articles as questioning the long-term financial liability of the hospital and when it would “break even.” The question was important for two reasons: 1) as a measure of the financial future of the hospital, and 2) for an understanding of the ability of the hospital to “repay” what was basically a “loan” to the hospital from county government.
I put “repay” and “loan” in quotes because one cannot really loan or repay themselves money. This is our county government and our hospital, and to repay ourselves is somewhat an accounting and accountability comment. I have stated a number of times over the past three years that small rural community hospitals are like many families and are financially fragile. Keeping our hospital will always be a challenge. It will be a challenge we must address and handle. It will be a challenge that we can meet just like Miracle League and Work Ready Communities.
Since we have just finished tax season and my door is open, many people poke their heads in and comment about anything from hospitals to roads and ball games. Hospital comments are generally about receiving unusually good care, but having billing/administrative issues. I have experienced them myself.
The current CEO is leaving and we wish him well. The hospital administration is in transition. I know that in recent weeks some employee groups have worked to identify activities that will produce cost savings and improve efficiencies. The new transitioning administrative team has a local person high up in the business department (Cindy Gault), an experienced billing person recently returning to Union whom we welcome back (Roger Miller), and the new CEO Paul Newhouse who has the experience and situational awareness I believe necessary to address the challenges that face fragile small rural hospitals. I believe they, along with the employee groups that are engaging in the future of the hospital (groups of Union based community people just like Miracle League and the Work Ready Groups), are the right people at the right place at the right time and for the right reason.
There is maybe one avenue where we all can improve: utilize the hospital. When I say that in my office to those who poke their heads in with complaints, I get a variety of reasons of why not to use the hospital. I acknowledge to them that there are some problems and challenges at the hospital just as there are in government, education, public safety, etc. I do believe that many of the issues are perception issues, but if we do not support the hospital in word and use, then it may not remain there long enough to address the real challenges and issues as we also work to clear up the perceived ones. We all have to be the right people, our community is the right place, the hospital is the right reason, and this is the right time to meet the challenge. We often are our own worst enemies when we put ourselves down enough that we begin to believe it.
John Flood reminded me recently of what is often referred to as the self-fulfilling prophecy where a person or an organization lives up (or down) to the expectations others set for them. We as a community can raise our expectations, and I believe that as we look at and support the hospital as a group, it will meet our expectations.
As I see those employees at the hospital as a group who are a product of our community, I can tell you that they are like Miracle League folks and Work Ready Community folks. They are the right people in the right place at the right time for the right reason. Let us be the right people, in the right place, at the right time, for the right reason and join them and support them as this community establishes and meets high expectations in this and other areas of our community.
Tommy Sinclair is the Supervisor of Union County.