A shot in the arm

Only a few short months ago, one of the biggest assets to the community was teetering on the brink of financial collapse. Fairfield Memorial Hospital was absolutely hemorrhaging money, behind on its contributions to the State Retirement System, behind on its contributions to employee health insurance and saddled with a few ugly tax liens.

The outlook was not good. Without a hospital, not only would an avenue for health care for the county’s poor and elderly disappear, but any real and serious efforts toward economic development would vanish along with it. What the hospital needed, and needed quickly, was cash. And lots of it.

In February, County Council answered the call for help and injected $1.2 million into the hospital, recognizing just how vital the facility is for the future of Fairfield County. Now, nearly four months later, the Council is seeing the fruits of their investment. For the first time in quite a long time, Fairfield Memorial reported a profit for the month of May.

The hospital has satisfied the strings that came attached to that County cash, namely coming current on its payments into the State Retirement System and employee health insurance and paying off its tax debts and utility bills. New programs have been put into place in an effort to generate more services to more patients, and more programs are on the way.

Whether or not the hospital shows black ink for June or July remains to be seen, and the summer months are not traditionally big money makers for Fairfield Memorial, but the hospital’s board, staff and administration should be congratulated for at least making the first bit of headway that the facility has seen in quite some time. County Council, as well, deserves credit for having the foresight and will to do everything in its power to keep the hospital’s doors open. Taxpayer dollars should never be tossed around lightly, and it was clear from the outset that Council wasn’t in the mood to write any blank checks, even for something as valuable as the hospital. Follow-up, clearly, would be necessary, and follow up they have.

While the hospital admits that they are not out of the woods yet, they are, at least, on the path that leads out of the woods. More work remains to be done, and it appears as if the right people are in the right place to see that it gets done.