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WHAT WE THINK: Survival of JHS is really good news

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This hospital is vital to Shelbyville, and we shouldn't underestimate that.

The diagnosis last week for the financial problems besetting KentuckyOne Health was at first scary and then a great relief.

Much like a patient whose X-ray shows a big problem to be benign, KentuckyOne, parent company of Jewish Hospital Shelbyville, said it would do surgery but that the patient should survive – at least for the foreseeable future.

That Jewish Hospital Shelbyville was required to slice positions and even an entire unit – the wound unit, later restored in a post-op deal – was difficult and sad, because so many lives were affected: those of the employees and those of the patients. When a hospital reduces services, that’s not good for anyone.

But the sigh of relief came from all of Shelby County when officials decried rumors to the contrary and said JHS would not be closed to offset some of the $218 million in losses KentuckyOne had incurred since the merger in 2012 that created it.

There would be massive layoffs – about 700 jobs were lost, ultimately, including 500 layoffs – and reduced services at some hospitals, but Shelby County wouldn’t lose its oldest medical facility.

During the past decade, JHS continually has recast itself into a limited-service community hospital. Its array of services may not be as complete as they were years ago, but there remain a complement of treatment areas and surgical offerings to address the greatest needs of the residents of three counties (Spencer, Henry and Shelby).

We realize, too, that the hospital is not the first choice or even a respected choice of everyone in the community. That’s fair. Not all doctors and facilities are created equal, and customers have the right to shop around for those they prefer.

But let’s all be sure of one thing: Having a hospital in Shelbyville is vital to the stability, prestige and healthfulness of our entire county.

Not only is a hospital a few minutes away for critically injured or sick residents – saving crucial time in perilous situations – but it also allows for a closer physical relationship within families. Our loved ones can be treated closer to home, and that can reduce stress in difficult times.

JHS’s presence also is a valuable element for the economic growth in our county. When Shelby bids for new or expanded industry or retail – such as the Outlet Shoppes of Louisville in Simpsonville – you can believe that having a nearby hospital and the medical personnel that frequent it are bona fide pluses.

When speculation emerged late last week that JHS might be closing, community leaders were shaking their heads and wringing their hands in hopes that sounder thinking would emerge. They understand that a hospital can’t be replaced and that this old facility on Hospital Drive is a linchpin, whether most recognize that or not.

We fear the cutting at KentuckyOne is not finished. The medical field is undergoing sea change, with the Affordable Care Act bringing in many newly insured patients, Medicaid expanding to a broader number of the poor and a dearth of qualified medical personnel to handle all these patients.

We would think more patients – particularly those who have insurance and whose bills subsequently would be paid – are a big positive for health care.

Some leaders suggest otherwise, as if profitability is the true Hippocratic Oath.

We don’t know, but all we can say for certain is this:

Jewish Hospital Shelbyville is an antidote for many future civic ailments.