Hospital boosts Fayette economy

Tue, 04/28/2009 - 3:46pm
By: Ben Nelms

Most people understandably think of a hospital as a place to receive healthcare. But a hospital also affects the local economy. In the case of Piedmont Fayette Hospital the yearly economic impact totals $275 million, according to a state hospital financial survey.

“This new report shows that Piedmont Fayette Hospital has an enormous positive impact on our local economy,” said Piedmont Fayette CEO W. Darrell Cutts. “We thank the Fayette community’s unwavering support of their local hospital and will continue to work hard to ensure that the citizens of this community have access to healthcare services that are second to none in quality and affordability.”

Piedmont Fayette Hospital opened its doors in September 1997. Today it is a 143-bed, acute-care community hospital on Ga. Highway 54 West in Fayetteville that employs more than 1,100 people.

The report, which is based on the Georgia Department of Community Health’s 2006 Hospital Financial Survey, revealed that Piedmont Fayette Hospital had direct expenditures of more than $111 million in 2006, according to Piedmont Fayette Community Relations Director Ryan Duffy.

When combined with an economic multiplier developed by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, the total economic impact of those expenditures was more than $275 million.

This output multiplier considers the “ripple” effect of direct hospital expenditures on other sectors of the economy, such as medical supplies, durable medical equipment and pharmaceuticals.

Economic multipliers are used to model the resulting impact of a change in one industry on the “circular flow” of spending within an economy as a whole, Duffy said.

Released by the Georgia Hospital Association, the report also found that, during the same time period, Piedmont Fayette Hospital provided approximately $5.5 million in uncompensated care — that is, medical services for which the hospital didn’t receive any money.

Hospitals play a recognizable role in economic development beyond direct services and employment, Duffy said. Hospitals attract other healthcare professionals while providing companies interested in moving to the area an added incentive.

“They want to know they’re bringing their employees to a community that can serve their healthcare needs,“ Duffy said, also addressing the larger role of the hospital in the Fayette community. “We have to be sustainable. If not, we’re not doing a service to the community. The community is bigger than these brick walls.”

Fayetteville City Manager Joe Morton noted the impact of the hospital beyond its walls, saying that Piedmont Fayette has made a significant contribution to the community for more than a decade, both in terms of the expansions of the facility and the numerous ancillary businesses that have been developed around it.

Those businesses provide employment and a variety of locally available healthcare resources that would otherwise not be here, he said.

Among the many expansion projects by the hospital over the years were the 150,000-square-foot west wing expansion, 164,000 square feet of medical offices on Hwy. 54, 8,000 square feet of work on the north tower and the recent construction of the fourth and fifth floors for patient use totaling 51,000 square feet, according to Fayetteville Planning and Zoning Director Eldridge Gunn.

Fayette County Development Authority Director Matt Forshee, too, noted the ongoing economic impact supplied to the county by the hospital.

“A lot of people don’t realize that Piedmont Fayette is one of the largest employers in the county. The dollars they have generated is clearly impressive,” Forshee said. “Before the hospital was here people had to leave the county for those medical services. Now it’s an anchor, and we’re looking for ways to capitalize on that for continued economic development.”

Piedmont Fayette has extended its reach inside and outside its walls since opening its doors in September 1997. The hospital offers 24-hour emergency services, medical and surgical services, as well as obstetrics, diagnostic, cardiac catheterization and rehabilitation services.

The hospital also operates a fitness center and a minor surgery and diagnostic center near the hospital and partners with a variety of community organizations, including Fayette CARE Clinic for those without medical insurance.

Aside from its many recognitions, Piedmont Fayette was named one of nation’s top 100 hospitals each year from 2004-2007 by Solucient Healthcare and one of the nation’s most wired for four consecutive years in the 100 Most Wired Survey and Benchmark Study.

The hospital also benefits from 270 volunteers contributing $470,000 last year, Duffy said.

Looking to the future, Duffy said the fourth and fifth floors are expected in open in July. Those offerings will make each of the facility’s 143 rooms private rooms, she said.

In the near term, perhaps in 2010, the hospital will open its new cancer center, complete with a linear accelerator and wellness component.

And further into the future, Duffy said the hospital is expecting to increase maternity, cardiology and cancer services.

While Piedmont Fayette Hospital remains a major component of the area’s economic engine, the hospital’s leadership, like the rest of the Georgia hospital community, is concerned about a wide array of economic challenges that have made it increasingly difficult to meet the community’s healthcare needs, Duffy said.

These challenges include continued cuts in Medicare and Medicaid payments and a fast-growing uninsured and underinsured population. Presently, more than a third of all hospitals in Georgia are operating with negative margins, said Duffy.

“We’re extremely concerned with the current operating environment for hospitals,” said Cutts. “We’ve made a commitment to every citizen of this community to be on call for them 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. But our ability to do so could be compromised when the state is paying us far less than what it actually costs to treat patients in government-sponsored plans.”

According to Cutts, state lawmakers must work to protect the state’s healthcare system with the same fervor that they do other initiatives like education and public utilities.

“Our local healthcare system is indispensable,” said Cutts. “It is a key building block for our local economy and desired lifestyle. It is our hope that, even in these challenging economic times, our elected officials will do what is necessary to protect our local healthcare system and preserve access to care for every resident of the communities we serve.”

Piedmont Fayette Hospital is a member of Piedmont Healthcare, a not-for-profit organization that also includes Piedmont Hospital, Piedmont Mountainside Hospital and Piedmont Newnan Hospital.

According to the hospital financial survey, Piedmont Healthcare generated more than $1.7 billion in revenue for the metro Atlanta economy in addition to providing approximately $34 million in uncompensated care while sustaining more than 6,300 full and part-time jobs throughout metro Atlanta and the rest of the state.

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