Starke County Council and Hospital Administration Discuss Future of Hospital

IU Health Starke Hospital (formerly Starke Memorial Hospital)

A contingent from Indiana University Health Starke Hospital attended the Starke County Council meeting Monday night. Among those in attendance were CEO Linda Satkoski, Vice President of Operations, Dave Hyatt, and the hospital’s attorney, Jim Kaminski, plus several Community Board members.

The purpose of the appearance was to solicit comment to a document sent to the Council concerning the lease of the hospital by IU Health LaPorte Hospital. Five years into a lease that is set to expire in 2016, the hospital hierarchy is interested in forming a government committee to monitor short and long term plans for the health facility.

Council President Mark Smith explained why the fiscal body of the County would be interested in improvements.

“By the terms of the lease, the County, should the lease end, there will be an amount of un-depreciated improvements that we will be responsible for,” said Smith.

Smith was pleased with the suggestion from the hospital administration.

“What I think the hospital is trying to avoid by coming to us and saying ‘let’s form this committee and work together’ is that situation. I think we’re trying to look to the future and say what is going to be the best for everybody involved and surely handing the County an enormous bill is not going to be best for all of us involved. I think they’re very willing and very cooperative in their attitude towards trying to come up with something that’s going to be beneficial to all of us.”

Although the media was not privy to the document presented, Smith said one of the considerations is a new hospital structure.

“I’m the one who said it because it’s in the letter that the hospital gave us. They’ve contracted with a firm that they’re expertise is to evaluate health care facilities and part of that evaluation is immediate needs, long term needs and the possibility of building a new facility. I’m not saying, and neither is the hospital, that they’re prepared to build a new facility. However, out of due diligence I think that it’s a reasonable consideration. Do you keep putting paint on that old barn or do you build a new barn?”

Even though it’s assumed discussion of a new hospital is in it’s infancy, the fact that it is being explored by the lessee seems to be proof that they are looking at both short and long term improvements.

Smith, though, said there is a certain attachment to the old building at that location.

“A certain part of me has a sentimental attachment to that building in this community. It’s kind of like when you take an old school building and you build a new one, as much as you’re so proud to see this beautiful new school structure, it’s also really sad to see the old school go. I think that in the case of the hospital, the minute you start to talk about building a new one, right away even I find myself having a sentimental attachment to that building. It’s been there for a long, long time and as I said, it’s been in that same footprint.”

At one point in the presentation Hyatt said, “The document in front of you is an overview of what is going to be required to keep this hospital functioning and providing the safe care it currently provides.”

After much discussion, it was decided that the entire Council and board of Commissioners would form a committee.