Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Porter County Council votes 7-0 to retain hospital tax abatement

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By JEFF SCHULTZ

The ten year tax abatement for Porter Regional Hospital is safe for now as the Porter County Council voted 7-0 to judge it in compliance with the terms of the agreement.

Council President Dan Whitten, D-at large, said last month he suspected the hospital was not living up to its promises when it cut its staff by about 70 workers and its latest forms turned in to the County reported 22 new jobs. The Hospital in 2009 had agreed to hire a minimum of 126 employees when it opened its facility at Ind. 49 and U.S. 6 in 2012.

Porter Health Care Systems CEO Steve Lunn on Tuesday admitted the information on the forms was submitted incorrectly which he believes is due to a change in administration.

The correct number is 346 full-time employees, he told the Council, and said the hospital would resubmit the compliance form with the current figures.

The total of full-time positions at Porter Health’s facilities throughout Porter County is 1,846, Lunn said.

Lunn, who was appointed as CEO in February 2014 following the departure of Jonathan Nalli, said it’s the Hospital’s intention to honor the agreement as the abatement is essential to growing its services.

“We have big plans for Porter (Regional Hospital). The abatement is going to be a big part of that,” he said.

Whitten in response told Lunn he takes the agreement “very seriously” and if it is not honored he would vote to pull the abatement to “protect the taxpayers of Porter County.”

The Hospital is expected to save over $12 million in property taxes during the ten-year abatement period but, along with the additional increase in salaries and jobs, PRH is required to pay 10 percent of what’s abated each year to the Porter County Redevelopment Commission.

Whitten said the abatement, granted in 2009, was seen as a long-term investment with returns of “increased salaries, people going to work and growing the County’s tax base.”

“I want to see this be a huge success,” he said.

Council attorney Scott McClure gave the Council his opinion that the new compliance form will put the Hospital in good standing.

Lunn said that 50 more jobs are anticipated this year with the construction of a new emergency room, and June’s layoffs are not to indicate that the Hospital is contracting. “We are adding and growing services all the time,” he said.

Nurses from Ohio protest

The question of whether the hospital should keep its abatement garnered some attention from outside the state as two registered nurses from Ohio and an associate of National Nurses United traveled here to speak out against Porter Health’s parent company Community Health Systems.

The two said they lost their positions at the CHS-owned Affinity Medical Center in Massillon, Ohio. They alleged that CHS “puts profit before patient care” and when requests are made for equipment needed for patient treatment, they were denied.

Whitten thanked them for their comments but said the public hearing pertained only to the tax abatement.

From the audience, chairman of Porter Health Care Systems Board of Directors Dave Rose made positive remarks about CHS, asserting “they’re the ones that allow us to expand services.”

Rose echoed Lunn’s comments that the Porter Health is “going to make more investment and add more people” in the near future. “Our strategic plan is growth,” he said.

Improved communication

One thing the board wants to do, Rose said, is “talk more with” the Council, which Council member Jim Biggs, R-1st was happy to hear. Biggs said the reason there has been so much “push and pull” between the County and the Hospital in the past is because of miscommunication and misunderstanding.

“(Communication) is going to be paramount to the future,” Biggs said.

Council Vice-President Karen Conover, R-3rd, told Lunn she appreciated the “excellent care” by Hospital staff when a family member of hers needed medical attention and lauded the service it gives to the community. “If you’re successful, every resident is successful. We invest in you so you can invest in us,” Conover said.

 

Posted 7/29/2015

 
 
 
 

 

 

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