Medical care vs. sports facilities

Keywords Opinion / Wishard

Everyone has been reading about the development of a new Wishard Memorial Hospital and the $703 million that is required
in public bonds to help finance a new $754 million hospital complex.

I am an ophthalmologist who practiced at
the Indiana University Department of Ophthalmology from 1972–1986 and then returned to the department two years ago.
I have participated weekly in assisting the residents in ophthalmology at Wishard, both in the clinic and in surgery.

Many of the buildings date back to 1914 and many of the areas in the hospital are quite outdated. As I walk around the facility
every week, it is apparent that the hospital is not only outdated but it is beyond remodeling.

In the outpatient
area alone, many patients are sitting both in chairs and on the floor while waiting for care. Wishard has trained thousands
of medical students, nurses and other professionals. In addition, it has a level 1 trauma center and burn unit. The caregivers
at Wishard are quite sympathetic and extremely professional with patients, most of whom are unable to receive care in the
private community.

The citizens of Indianapolis were asked to build and now support the debt of Lucas Oil Stadium
and Conseco Fieldhouse. These facilities were built with good intentions, but now we find they are unable to sustain themselves
as projected.

Wishard and the Marion County Health and Hospital Corp. officials have presented a business case
to support construction of a new Wishard. Property tax levels in Marion County should not be affected and general obligation
bonds will be used, but only as a guarantee. Wishard’s annual bond payments, as presented, will be less than 5 percent
of its income. Wishard also has $150 million in savings, 15 percent-20 percent of the new hospital’s cost. Just to repair
various systems within the hospital costs $25 million annually. The projection is that the old building is so inefficient
that a new building will be approximately one-third smaller and yet serve many more patients. Wishard provides more care for
the uninsured than all other hospitals in the Indianapolis area.

Consider the numbers: Wishard Memorial Hospital
provides approximately 1.2 million outpatient visits a year and 19,000 inpatient visits. If the citizens can endorse Lucas
Oil Stadium and Conseco Fieldhouse it’s a no brainer that they should endorse a new Wishard Hospital.


Daniel H. Spitzberg

Associate professor, Department of Ophthalmology
Indiana University

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