The economics of health

Statistics show how hospitals contribute financially to their communities, the Iowa Hospital Association says

—Daily Freeman-Journal photo by Anne Blankenship An Iowa Hospital Association study has revealed the impact of hospitals on the local economy. UnityPoint Health — Trinity REgional Medical Center generates 1,159 jobs that ads $72. 7 million to the local economy. Van Diest Medical Center in Webster City, pictured above, generates 315 jobs and nearly $2.3 million in retail sales.


FORT DODGE – UnityPoint Health — Trinity Regional Medical Center generates 1,159 jobs that add $72,784,155 to the local economy, according to a study just released by the Iowa Hospital Association.

It is one of the area’s largest employers. However, there is much more to the story than just the jobs directly created. The presence of a state-of-the-art medical center here helps community leaders attract new corporate investment in Webster County.

“I don’t think I could overstate the value of having a good regional medical center in a community,” Dennis Plautz, chief executive officer of the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance, said. “It is a big economic multiplier, but I think just as big is what it contributes to quality of life and our ability to get a workforce to support the companies that we can be competitive for. … Having good health care and having access to the various specialties that we have here is extremely important.”

Plautz said the strength of the medical center helps sell Fort Dodge to the decision-makers at companies considering locating in Webster County or expanding an existing facility that is already here.

“We market UnityPoint with every client that we have,” he said. “I’ve even taken clients through the hospital to let them see it firsthand. They are really surprised that we have the level of care that we have here. I think given the size of Fort Dodge, people don’t expect us to have the level of health care that we have in this community. We go out of our way to make sure people are aware of it.”

Plautz said having excellent health care facilities in Fort Dodge makes it easier for companies to recruit the workers they need.

“Workers will be looking at the kind of health care you have available in your community when they are considering moving from Dayton, Ohio, or Chicago or Omaha to take a job here,” he said. “From a workforce standpoint, it’s important.”

Fort Dodge Mayor Matt Bemrich shares Plautz’s assessment of the medical center’s importance in helping the local economy grow. He also stressed that it improves the town’s ability to attract new businesses and the people they need as employees.

“Health care plays a really high role in why people select where they want to live,” Bemrich said. “Trinity and UnityPoint play a significant role in providing that top-quality health care. It impacts not just Fort Dodge, but the region also.”

Plautz said that the broad range of health care issues Trinity Regional Medical Center can address makes its presence here appealing to companies considering a move to Webster County or an expansion.

“From a company standpoint there are lots of things that are important,” he said. “For example, when UnityPoint Health — Trinity Regional Medical Center built the new ER addition they significantly upgraded the ability to treat chemical and other industrial accidents. When you look at companies in the biotech or chemical field or even others, they will look at things like that in doing some of their evaluations.”

Mike Dewerth, president and chief executive officer of UnityPoint Health — Fort Dodge, said he is pleased that the huge enterprise he leads is making so positive and multifaceted a contribution to the well-being of the community.

“It is nice seeing the positive impact we have on not only the health of our communities, but also the economic growth for Fort Dodge and our surrounding areas,” he said.

Bemrich said he is especially pleased by how well the leaders at Trinity cooperate with the broad-based, communitywide effort to build the best future for Fort Dodge.

“They are definitely a community partner and have been for a very long time,” he said. “We look forward to working cooperatively with them in the future.”

Hamilton County results:

Van Diest Medical Center

+ 315 in jobs

+ $14,868,311 in payroll

+ $2,297,524 in retail sales

The IHA findings

The IHA report provides a detailed overview of the impact of the state’s community hospitals on the Hawkeye State’s economy. It concludes that they collectively add $7.1 billion to the state’s economy. According to the study, hospital employees spend $1.9 billion on retail sales annually and are responsible for $114 million in state sales tax revenues. It reports that Trinity Regional Medical Center employees spend $24,422,524 in retail sales and contribute $1,464,691 in state sales tax revenue.

“Hospitals and health care are vital to the economy in all parts of the state, both urban and rural,” Kirk Norris, IHA president and chief executive officer, said. “With more than 330,000 jobs, health care is one of Iowa’s largest employers, and hospitals remain, by far, the biggest contributor to that enormous impact. In Iowa cities and counties, hospitals are uniformly among the largest employers. Those jobs bring income to Main Street businesses and support local government services and infrastructure through taxes.”

The Iowa Hospital Association is a membership organization representing hospital and health system interests. All of Iowa’s 118 community hospitals are members.