Rx for a Healthy Economy

As goes the health of a local hospital, like CHI Mercy, so goes the health of the local economies it serves.

Story by Dick Baltus

It doesn’t take an economics degree to understand that local jobs are the lifeblood of any community.

In most smaller rural areas, the local hospital, if there is one, is typically near or atop the list of a community’s largest employers. In Roseburg, CHI Mercy Health, with its approximately 1,100 employees, is the No. 1 employer and only Roseburg Forest Products employs more people in all of Douglas County.

Needless to say, Mercy makes a significant contribution to the economic health of Roseburg and surrounding communities. Its payroll contributes nearly $90 million to local families and, in turn, the many local businesses that benefit from the purchases Mercy and its employees make. That ripple effect spreads deep into Douglas County communities.

As Kelly Morgan, CHI Mercy president and CEO says, “The wages we pay have an economic multiplier that produces a profound impact on our regional economy. The wages we pay our people get reinvested in our community when they buy new houses or cars or go to the grocery store or pay their taxes.”

Indeed, according to a 2017 report by the American Hospital Association on the economic contributions of hospitals, every dollar spent by a hospital supports $2.30 of additional business activity in the community.

In addition, every job in the hospital industry creates another two “ripple-effect” jobs in local communities. These could be anything from jobs in local business that support Mercy’s activities to the restaurants that serve Mercy employees and their families.

Having a strong healthcare community also bodes well for the future of any community’s economy. As members of the enormous Baby Boomer generation continue to age into their retirement years and consider relocating to other communities, the state of local healthcare is one of their primary considerations. Having a state-of-the-art hospital like CHI Mercy and a robust medical staff of 120 active providers (and some 300 altogether) makes Douglas County, with its many other quality-of- life benefits, a very attractive destination for retirees and others.

That bodes well for Douglas County businesses that cater to their needs, whether it’s senior-living facilities, durable medical equipment suppliers or other care providers, such as dentists and optometrists.

Of course, one of the keys to keeping the Douglas County economy healthy is to continue supporting local businesses, including the local hospital. Every time a patient heads out of town for the same care that is available at Mercy, it’s a double hit to the economy – the local hospital loses needed revenue as do all the businesses benefiting from the ripple effect.

Morgan says Mercy has worked hard over the years to grow the local medical community to ensure people don’t have to leave town except for highly specialized care – for example, open-heart surgery — that can’t feasibly be offered to Douglas County’s relatively small patient base.

“Probably 95 percent of care that any Douglas County resident will need in his or her lifetime is available from Mercy and our medical staff,” Morgan says. “We’re doing everything we can to keep people local for their care. It’s not just good for the future of CHI Mercy, it’s good for the economic future of all of Douglas County.”