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I was a big naysayer. I mean, who holds a breakfast event at Fresno’s Chaffee Zoo to unveil an economic analysis of why hospitals in Fresno and Madera counties are crucial to the well-being of the Valley? But – what a success!
The July 19 event drew 200 people (more than those who originally registered), the three speakers were well received, the early blast of summer sun didn’t begin to spread into the grassy amphitheater until presentations were nearly done – and the good-vibe lingered afterward as folks took a brisk stroll through the zoo.
Truth is, as I seem to have forgotten in the 15 years since my last visit to the zoo, it is a place of imagination, visible and hidden positive energies. Older people shed their inhibitions. Young folks buzz with discovery. It’s just what’s needed in Fresno, the Valley or anyplace that wants a fruitful tomorrow.
The economic impact report yielded some eyebrow raisers, which were briskly recited by Lynne Ashbeck, vice president of the Hospital Council of Northern and Central California. Hospitals in the two counties yield an annual economic impact of nearly $6 billion. Between 2012-14, hospitals will spend about $700 million in construction to meet the area’s heath needs, including $450 million at Clovis Community Medical Center, $10.5 million at Community Regional Medical Center and $2 million at Fresno Heart & Surgical Hospital.
Ashbeck put the numbers in important contexts – agriculture will always be king but working with the No. 2 “industry,” healthcare, they are the strengths that will fashion the future, powerful rising tides that will help others rise with them.
And the future, she said, requires retaining and growing knowledge-based industries. The hospital economic impact report was a validation of one of the Valley’s sharpest and most desperately needed knowledge-based industries.
To be sure, it is also an industry under increasing threat – changing economics have forced some Valley hospitals underwater and imperiled others.
A few days after the zoo event, hosted by the Fresno Economic Development Corporation, I returned to the zoo with my daughter and her two young sons. The boys saw with those wonderful first-time eyes – sea lion cove, the green mamba that tracked them behind glass in the reptile house, the elephants showering themselves with dirt to cool off. My daughter, who was a tyke when she last saw the then-newly opened rainforest exhibit, remarked how different it looked to her now.
To see something familiar, and to see it new, as though for the first time. That’s where we’re at in healthcare's historic transformation.
It’s taken a long slog, but what’s been created at the Chaffee Zoo is rich with imagination and an educated focus. As we reach a turnkey moment in healthcare reform in 2014, it’s important to recall how far we’ve come – how much the residents of the Valley have invested in their hospitals, in locally owned, nonprofit Community Medical Centers.
And with steady hands, and knowledge-based strategies, our overall medical system will evolve to a better place.
Here’s a link to the economic impact report: http://hundred10.com/community/EIR%20BODY%20AS%20OF%207.10.13%20LAA.PDF