As the pandemic tapers off, the need for hospitals has not. With surges of respiratory illnesses inundating emergency departments, hospitals – and hospital workers – remain our most unwavering line of defense.
But even as hospitals continue to support their communities in the most urgent and visible ways – the ways everyone associates them with – we should keep in mind the more stealth impacts that hospitals make well beyond their walls and campuses. As health care professionals weather current surges and brace for others, it’s critical that Texas recognizes the full vitality of health care workers and the hospitals that employ them.
Certainly, any survey of hospitals’ service to their communities should begin with their round-the-clock caregiving and lifesaving mission. Hospitals work 24 hours a day, seven days a week to ensure millions have a place to go in an emergency or for more extended stays. The work they do is invaluable to the people who live healthy lives and, in many cases, have seen their life extended by the selfless work of their local health care providers.
Hospitals are there for the uninsured and underserved. The cost of uncompensated care is often absorbed by care providers, thanks to both private and government insurance programs that don’t fully cover the cost of care. Hospitals provide a sense of safety and security that boosts confidence in a community and helps people thrive. Without frontline staff – doctors, nurses and others – this care is not possible.
But beyond the bustle of an emergency department, hospitals have a dramatic impact on their local communities, pumping dollars and jobs into local economies. According to American Hospital Association (AHA) data for 2020, hospitals nationwide brought in over $1 trillion in goods and services. A recent report by the Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council found that hospitals contributed $38.4 billion to the North Texas economy in fiscal year 2022, along with nearly 373,000 jobs. Hospitals rank among the top industries in the state and in the U.S.; about one in eight jobs are hospital-employed, according to AHA. As the population in Texas continues to grow, the need for health care access and health care providers are on an exponential rise.
The breadth of hospitals’ value reaches farther still. Hospitals and hospital-affiliated medical schools are at the forefront of research, education, and public health innovation. Texas hospitals, in combination with institutions of higher education, bring in billions in funds for research and development. These state and federal funding programs drive crucial medical strides which will save lives in the future, supporting the development of vaccines, treatments and procedures that will inevitably produce better-quality care and save Texans’ lives.
In the upcoming session of the Texas Legislature, the budget will loom large on the mind of legislators. A state-record surplus – projected at $27 billion – is part of that equation. If lawmakers dividing the available pie have any questions about whether hospitals are a good investment, all these facets of their impact should point to a firm “yes.” And hospitals need the help coming out of the pandemic, which is why the Texas Hospital Association is asking for important state funding on Medicaid, increasing the health care workforce pipeline, bolstering access behavioral health and more.
Here at THA, we urge everyone to recognize that the services hospitals provide to the community are not only vital during times of need, but also on a regular basis. After the pandemic is finally declared over, we must recognize that public health is an ongoing community necessity. Hospitals, by extension, are an essential part of communities – investments that pay for themselves and then some, in terms of both dollars and community enrichment.
Originally published by the Houston Medical Journal.
Dec. 22, 2022