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The Journal Gazette

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Tuesday, June 12, 2018 1:00 am


Healthier outlook

Lutheran parent following through on promises

The Journal Gazette's Sherry Slater reported Sunday that Community Health Systems, parent company of Lutheran Health Network, is making good on a promised $500 million package of capital investments here. Even some of the hospital system's critics say things have improved.

This is good news for the network's more than 7,000 employees, for the patients its facilities serve and for everyone who understands the crucial role the two largest health care providers play in our region. 

By any measure, the quality of life in our communities is tied to the quality of its health care. Though Lutheran Health Network and Parkview Health have provided dependable, accessible, high-quality care in Fort Wayne and northeast Indiana for decades, questions that emerged last year about Franklin, Tennessee-based CHS' commitment to Lutheran's future were troubling. 

Some medical staff members participated in public demonstrations and walkouts. Critics pointed to a drop in quality ratings. After CHS rejected an attempt by a group of doctors to arrange a buyout of Lutheran, there was an alarming round of resignations and firings, including a bitter parting between the hospital network and its former CEO, Brian Bauer. 

Things seem to have calmed down, Slater reported, and employees are seeing upgrades at all of the network's eight hospitals. 

The location of a new downtown facility to replace the century-and-a-half-old St. Joe Hospital is still not public, but Lutheran CEO Mike Poore isn't backing away from last year's announcement. He said he plans to release details within a few months.

Though Lutheran's parent company appears to be whittling away at its huge debts, CHS' long-term financial health may remain a concern for some time.

Nonetheless, CHS appears to be making good on the capital-spending pledge it made last year for projects through 2022. The company seems to recognize it can ill afford to neglect the Lutheran network, which analysts have called the “crown jewel” of the CHS hospital empire. 

Big changes are still ahead for the Fort Wayne health care market. Last month, Parkview announced plans for a six-story addition to its main hospital building, and the state-of-the-art Parkview Cancer Institute opened earlier this month. It may be no coincidence that some of Lutheran's and Parkview's ambitious investment plans are unfolding at a time when the community is also waiting for more information from IU Health, which has declared its intention to expand its presence here.   

In a growing community with growing health care needs, competition is a very healthy thing.