Our View: Silence won't win support

The Memorial Hospital made some tough decisions this week. The hospital, owned by county residents, laid off 10 employees and laid out plans for big change.

News of layoffs and cuts is never pleasant to deliver or receive.

But we can't help but wonder why hospital officials made the situation more unpleasant by taking some community members by surprise. We also wonder why some hospital officials last week refused to answer the most basic questions from the Craig Daily Press about the changes. Taxpayer-funded entities don't get to dodge questions because answering them would be uncomfortable or inconvenient.

News of the cuts and changes came less than a week after the hospital reported it met a $1 million capital campaign goal. Officials say the cost-cutting measures will help the hospital meet its goal of building a $19 million facility ($26 million after financing costs). The measures would help the hospital run more efficiently and capitalize on Medicare reimbursements, officials say. We won't argue about that. We sympathize with Susan McGough, interim administrator of the hospital. McGough, who took the position in the summer, is forced to solve problems she didn't create. We don't envy her position of having to make unpopular decisions. But we will argue about the timing of the announcement and the sting of surprise.

On Tuesday, the hospital said part of its plan included moving departments and that would mean asking the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association to move out of a building at 745 Russell St. The hospital and the county built the Russell Street building in 1997 to house the association. Although the two organizations work closely on community health care initiatives, the nonprofit Visiting Nurse Association is not affiliated with the hospital. On Tuesday, Sue Birch, director of the association, said she knew the hospital was considering moving departments and reviewing its space needs. But it wasn't until Tuesday, when the hospital made the announcement, that she learned the hospital would ask the association to move. We don't think Birch and the association should have been taken by surprise. To be fair, the hospital has offered comparable space to the association. During a meeting Thursday, the hospital also offered to sell the association the building. But these discussions should have taken place long before the hospital made its announcements.

After a taciturn start, hospital officials have answered questions posed to it by the newspaper. We don't know if it was arrogance or a misguided public relations strategy that kept them from doing that in the first place.

We do know that to build a new hospital, officials need public support. The hospital probably won't get and won't deserve that support if it isn't open with the community.

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