Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Specialty hospitals in Montana

In an issue of more acute interest to Great Falls because of the desire of the Great Falls Clinic to build a specialty hospital, a bill to extend the 2005 moratorium on such hospitals in Montana is prominent in the Great Falls Tribune today.

Proponents of specialty hospitals (and thus opponents of this bill) say that it will generate competition for hospitals like Benefis in Great Falls, causing them to "sharpen their pencils."

Opponents say that these specialty hospitals will kill "regular" hospitals because they will skim off the cream, so to speak.

While generally in favor of free-market competition, Montana Headlines tends to go with the hospitals on this one, at least on first glance. It seems that there would be an excessive duplication of services and expensive infrastructure.

We are not so sure that this issue needs to be painted as "doctor vs. hospital" either, wondering if the laws that, as we understand, banned doctors from having ownership in "regular" hospitals didn't help create this problem. There should be creative solutions available whereby doctors in Montana can have a direct stake in the financial success of their community hospitals, decreasing their interest in creating competing specialty hospitals.

Regardless of the size of the community, hospitals and medical corridors are large parts of the Montana economy. They need to be kept healthy. The debate will be interesting to follow.

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