Word has hit the street that Mesa View Regional Hospital is planning to close their labor and delivery department.
While the move won't be as visible to visitors as an abandoned casino or a shuttered business on Mesquite Blvd., its effect will be far more devastating.
The old business catchphrase is "if you're not growing, you're dying." If Mesquite is no longer offering a way to care for newborns, eliminating a means by which to grow our town, what are we doing?
That's right. Dying.
Sadly, we once again have no one to blame but ourselves, going back to the last decade when our town was so desperately trying to woo a hospital here.
Over the last century, a lot of community hospitals were started by exactly that -- the community. Not-for-profit hospitals have often been created to serve a town's needs. Founded and guided by board members made up of local residents and funded by local citizens, the hospitals were answerable to the people in that town.
Unfortunately, we took a shortcut back in 2002. We chose to get on our hands and knees and beg a for-profit organization to build here. And we've been at their mercy ever since.
For starters, an enormous number of retirees in Mesquite have a Medicare HMO called "Senior Dimensions." However, the "powers that be" who control Mesa View have chosen to ignore the community's need and refuse to accept that insurance.
Now Community Health Systems, the company out of Franklin, Tenn. which bought the hospital from Triad a few years ago, is poised to tell hundreds of families in Mesquite to go to Utah to birth their babies.
If this was a not-for-profit hospital owned and controlled by the community, it's an unlikely stance.
But woulda-coulda-shoulda. It is what it is.
And what it is, is shameful.
Get used to it, because this is medical care in the 21st century. It's not about what's best for a struggling town or its inhabitants; it's not about providing the best care possible; it's not about healing the sick and treating the injured; it's not about protecting life.
It's about money. Nothing else. You don't like that? Tough!
That isn't the position of those guardian angels in white who punch a clock every day -- the nurses and front line staff who actually provide service to the patients. Those people care deeply, and provide the service that wins awards every year. But to the actual owners of the hospital, those awards are nothing but cheap helium to inflate their marketing balloons and stamp across their advertisements.
Ironically, the ongoing bad decisions made by the hospital's owners are what have run off patients and forced potential customers who have the luxury of choice to go to St. George or Las Vegas for their care. Mesquite's hospital has become notorious for their bad decisions, including a reputation for outrageous prices; the replacement of an extremely popular Senior Circle administrator with an extraordinarily unpopular former mayor; their refusal to accept the retired sector's most popular insurance; and the wrong-headed moves that have resulted in the loss of truly caring doctors like ear, nose, and throat specialist Dr. Alan Jones, family practitioner Dr. Paul Havens, urologist Dr. Orrenzo Snyder, and perhaps one of the most beloved of all, OB/GYN specialist Dr. Edward Ofori. The out-of-state management is "managing" to alienate the very community it is supposed to be serving.
Even in the cold-blooded world of uncaring insurance companies and autonomous healthcare corporations, it's still a bad idea to go out of your way to offend your customers. Instead of cutting an extremely valuable service like labor and delivery because (they claim) it isn't making money, maybe they should look at everything else they've done to leave such a bad taste in everyone's mouth in their short time in the Virgin Valley, a declining reputation that will continue to cost them money.
This time, they may have gone too far.
In the "old Mesquite," people wouldn't have raised a peep.
But in the last two years, the citizens of this community have found their voice, and learned how to use it.
The people have said "enough is enough" and cleaned house at the Virgin Valley Water District, then went on a voting rampage and cleared the decks at City Hall, running off the kind of people who used to tell us that their actions were "for our own good," and that we better like it or else.
Today we have a city council that is far more attuned to the public sentiment, and has proven to be responsive to the will of the people. And the people are speaking out about this.
A very vocal group of local citizens has taken to the internet to scream in outrage at this travesty, threatening letter-writing campaigns, relentless petitioning of their elected officials, and even pickets.
Who are these politically rabid left-wing and right-wing extremists and rabble rousers?
This valiant collection of women who have been quietly raising their children are noisily coming together on Facebook and on the newspaper comment boards to express their anger over the potential elimination of this critical service, and the cavalier treatment of a heroic doctor who has saved the lives of numerous newborns over the years.
And that is the stomach-turning difference between doctors and soulless medical corporations: Physicians take an oath to heal the sick, even the sick who are poor and on Medicaid. Healthcare companies only promise to generate dividends for their stockholders.
If Community Health Systems wants to show that they're different; to repair the rift with a community that once loved and embraced this hospital; and to prove that for-profit hospitals can be about more than money; this is their chance.
Otherwise they can live with a new award and title: Nevada's Anti-Family Hospital.