Steve Long: Hancock Health focused on future

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Editor’s note: Second of two parts

In the five years that my family and I have lived in Hancock County, we have discovered it is an incredible place to live, work, play and pray. In addition, Hancock County is growing, and this growth in population and prosperity is driving an increased need for health-care services, especially in the western portion of the county. To see some of the facts behind these statements, please look for Part 1 of this column that was published on Tuesday, Dec. 16 (‘Positioning ourselves for growth,’ Page A4; it’s also available at www.hancockregional.org).

In crafting our strategy, the leadership of Hancock Health took two additional pieces of information into consideration: 1) are there ways we can invest in our county beyond just providing expanded health care services; and 2) how much development can we afford to do? Interestingly, while crafting and implementing our plan, the Urban Land Institute study on the Mt. Comfort corridor was completed and offered additional insights into the needs of that region, allowing us to tweak things on the fly.

In the end, we decided on three very specific actions. First, combine the Fortville and McCordsville primary care practices onto the McCordsville campus located on Mt. Comfort Road (completed in 2017). Second, create an outpatient access point providing low-cost, high-quality diagnostic and urgent/emergent care at the intersection of I-70 and Mt. Comfort Road (Phase 1 completed in late 2019). You may know that this is the busiest intersection in the county and the hub of future industrial and residential growth. Given this, when building our new building there, we also decided to create an attractive “gateway” into the county that would encourage non-industrial development south of the interstate. Third, we decided to move the existing primary care practice in New Palestine to a location near Mt. Comfort Road; expand the number of physicians practicing there; and invest in a third wellness center (scheduled for completion in early 2021).

It is important to know that we made a commitment to achieving these goals without taking on debt. Hancock Health is fortunate to have a long history of fiscal prudence and the development of unique programs, growth strategies and investments that created significant financial reserves over the past decade, all without tax support. These reserves, supplemented by targeted fundraising by the hospital foundation for programs that tend not to be self-supporting (hospice, obstetrics and mental health, to name a few), and partnerships with local governments to leverage economic development tools, provide Hancock Health the ability to engage in the construction of new facilities that will serve the needs of future generations in our region and support a change in health care delivery to primarily outpatient environments.

You may recall that our second question to the consultants was in regard to the best long-term strategy in Greenfield, i.e. a “consolidated” vs. “scattered” approach. After much analysis, the recommendation was that we should develop a secondary campus in Greenfield on State Road 9 and near the interstate and consolidate our off-campus services there. The analysis indicated the location of the campus should be identified as soon as possible to ensure rights to the land could be acquired, but actual construction should be phased in over time following completion of the projects on the west side of the county. This strategy also would allow the replenishment of financial reserves. As you might expect, land on State Road 9 is in short supply, so it took quite some time to identify and acquire a suitable location (near the State Road 9 and New Road intersection). Our plan is to complete this construction over the next seven to 10 years.

Our board, administrative team, and medical staff leaders understand that success has three ingredients: geography, timing and everything else. Hancock County is blessed by geography and a rapid growth curve, and our team is very good at the “everything else.” While we understand that business cycles happen, regulations change and growth can come in fits and spurts, we also know that with the support of the incredible people that call our county home and the extraordinary associates working every day at Hancock Health, the future is bright indeed.

If you would like to learn more about the factors affecting health care locally, regionally and nationally, including why health care is so expensive and what Hancock Health is doing about it, I would be happy to visit with you personally, or make a group presentation, at your request. Call 317-468-4412. We are also planning community town hall meetings after the holidays, so please keep an eye out for those opportunities to learn more as well.

Steve Long is president and CEO of Hancock Health. Send comments to [email protected] greenfieldreporter.com.