Op/Ed: DMC needs support, or region will pay the price
- The Detroit Medical Center is in need of both immediate resuscitation and long- term care. Unless emergency treatment is administered stat, there will be no patient to sustain.
Leaders of the city, county and state are looking for a way to stabilize the hospital; they have to scrape up a fast financial bailout. As the city's only Level 1 trauma center -- the kind of facility that must be at the ready for visits from world leaders and has always been at the ready for victims of accidents and violence -- Detroit Receiving cannot be allowed to close.
Given Detroit's dearth of federally funded clinics -- the city must find a way to open more -- Receiving is the primary source of health care for many impoverished residents. If there's no downtown ER, they'll just spread outward, beyond Henry Ford and St. John to the suburban hospitals that don't yet bear the burden of $130 million in uncompensated care.
That's why, even as officials staunch DMC's $100-million-a-year hemorrhaging, they need to lay the groundwork for a regional authority to oversee the hospital's finances and to bolster its coffers, possibly through a tax, although a regional levy would be a hard sell. Detroiters can't afford it and suburbanites aren't eager to pony up for a hospital they never use. But the spillover if DMC closes will be even greater: in patients and their attendant costs; lost money to Wayne State University Medical School, which means fewer homegrown doctors; and lost economic development, which marks a city's wellness by the existence of a Level 1 trauma center. If that crumbles, all Southeast Michigan will pay anyway.
As an added benefit, a regional authority would let hospitals pool their clout to make louder cases in Washington for federal aid.
Strong national policy is the best medicine for averting such local emergencies.