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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, May 16, 2017 1:00 am

Healthy stake

Lutheran's investment in region welcome

The uncertain future of national health care policy makes Lutheran Health Network's half-billion-dollar plan to upgrade its hospitals especially welcome news.

CEO Brian Bauer said last week the seven-year capital investment plan will include improvements at all of its Fort Wayne hospitals as well as its regional medical centers in Bluffton, Warsaw and Peru. The health network also will add several outpatient centers for urgent care and testing.

The announcement could be affected somewhat by news Monday that a group of local doctors is making a bid to acquire Lutheran from Tennessee-based Community Health Systems. But the fact that the physicians' group has reportedly been concerned about Community Health's lack of corporate investment here only emphasizes the region's demand for it. 

Lutheran Health Network's plan to invest in city and regional facilities was made despite the financial struggles of its parent company, which has sold some of its hospitals in other states. And hospital companies across the country have expressed concern about the effects on their industry if the Affordable Care Act is changed or replaced.

In the statement issued last week by Lutheran Health, Bauer said the upgrades include “top to bottom” renovation of the 25-year-old Lutheran Hospital on West Jefferson Boulevard as well as expansion of the emergency department, addition of an outpatient cardiovascular center to the hospital's heart pavilion and creation of an advanced digestive treatment center.

Parkview Health, Fort Wayne's other health care giant, also has reinforced its commitment to service throughout the region, with $65 million in improvements to the Randallia campus in northeast Fort Wayne and now with development of the new $100 million Parkview Cancer Institute at the regional medical center north of Dupont Road. The cancer center is expected to open late this year or early next year. 

Both health systems have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in our communities and sustained thousands of jobs, but the economic benefits of having two strong health care networks go far beyond that.

Both systems have been big players in the drive to improve the quality of life here. Efforts to compete in attracting and retaining companies and workers are undergirded by the availability of excellent health care choices as surely as communities that see lost or reduced hospital services are diminished.

So whether or not you and your family use Lutheran facilities, if you live in northeast Indiana, the network's announcement last week is encouraging.