OPINION: A hospital is more than a money drain

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

This newspaper has been faithfully chronicling the ins and outs of the Long Island College Hospital (LICH) and, to a lesser extent, the Interfaith Hospital controversies. Turning our attention to Manhattan, we’re sure most readers are also familiar with the St. Vincent’s Hospital conflict of several years ago.

Implicit in all these controversies, however, is the idea that a hospital is nothing but an endless money drain. There’s some truth to this—many patients are on Medicare or Medicaid. When funds are cut, the hospitals suffer. But hospitals indirectly contribute large amounts of money to the community at large, and when a hospital closes, the entire community suffers as well.

Let’s take hospital beds. Beds require linen, pillows and so on. The company that supplies linen to the hospital probably employs many people and pays a good deal of money in taxes. Without the hospital as a client, that company may have to lay off employees. It will also pay fewer taxes, thus depriving the government of much-needed tax revenue.

Let’s also take food. Every hospital has a cafeteria and also delivers food directly to patients in their rooms. Food concessionaires also hire employers, pay taxes and purchase large amounts of food from suppliers. No cafeteria, no cafeteria employees. In a normal, healthy economy, these employees would find new jobs in a few weeks. But we’re not living in a healthy economy.

Same thing for the various coffee shops, restaurants and bars around a hospital. Many of these places mainly cater to hospital employees and visitors. If there’s suddenly no hospital, then half of these places may very well close. Their former employees will then spend less money at the supermarket and other local stores, sending negative waves through the local economy.

Transportation? Private car services near hospitals also rely on hospital visitors for much of their trade. If there’s no hospital, there will be fewer trips. Ultimately, fewer cars will be needed.

In macroeconomics, all of this is known, appropriately, as the “ripple effect.” This effect is worse when a hospital is the major employer in a neighborhood, as Long Island College Hospital probably is in Cobble Hill. As bad as the closing of St. Vincent’s Hospital was, the total economy of Greenwich Village wasn’t impacted that much because the West Village is jumping with hundreds of bars, clubs and souvenir shops. Closing LICH and Interfaith would hurt the areas surrounding these institutions much more.

The presence of a hospital can even cut down on crime. No one wants to mug a passer-by or sell drugs across the street from a hospital because people are constantly coming and going. But once a hospital closes and all you have are some big, empty buildings, the criminal element could see this as a green light to move in.

To sum up, hospitals aren’t just annoying, although necessary, institutions that cost millions of dollars. They generate lots of money into the local economy through purchases, services for visitors, businesses that cater to employees and much more. They also keep the neighborhood safer. Hospitals don’t just generate physical health – they generate economic health, as well.


November 18, 2013 - 10:00am



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