Is "rivalry" or "ad war" driving up hospital costs in Cape Girar - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Is "rivalry" or "ad war" driving up hospital costs in Cape Girardeau?

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Two weekend pieces in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch referred to a perceived rivalry and advertising war driving up prices. Two weekend pieces in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch referred to a perceived rivalry and advertising war driving up prices.
"I think if we do the right thing and provide for patient choice, and (be) transparent, the rest will take care of itself," Smith said. "I think if we do the right thing and provide for patient choice, and (be) transparent, the rest will take care of itself," Smith said.
"I think if we do the right thing and provide for patient choice, and (be) transparent, the rest will take care of itself," said Southeast Health's Chief Executive Wayne Smith. "I think if we do the right thing and provide for patient choice, and (be) transparent, the rest will take care of itself," said Southeast Health's Chief Executive Wayne Smith.
"The two hospitals are the largest two employers here by a lot," Bjelich said. "We contribute significantly to the economy." "The two hospitals are the largest two employers here by a lot," Bjelich said. "We contribute significantly to the economy."
"The two hospitals are the largest two employers here by a lot," Saint Francis Medical Center Chief Executive Steve Bjelich said. "We contribute significantly to the economy." "The two hospitals are the largest two employers here by a lot," Saint Francis Medical Center Chief Executive Steve Bjelich said. "We contribute significantly to the economy."
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CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) -

Are Cape Girardeau's cross town "rival" hospitals costing you more?

That's what an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch contends.

Two weekend pieces referred to a perceived rivalry and advertising war driving up prices.

"I question why the St. Louis Post would want to know about what's going on in Cape," said Southeast Health's Chief Executive Wayne Smith, "so I figured they would have a quote slant to that."

"I mean, we were on the front page," said Saint Francis Medical Center Chief Executive Steve Bjelich. "I don't know why they expressed an interest in Cape Girardeau."

But, the interest and two articles gave both Bjelich and his counterpart at Southeast Hospital the chance to address the issue of a perceived rivalry.

"The rivalry, I don't see it," said Smith. "That may be something that's existed in the past."

"Rivalry, in that context, is truly being used as a headline word," said Bjelich. "It is not indicative of what the community wanted."

In fact, Bjelich says the two hospitals considered merging three separate times during the 1990s.

He says the public, and medical community didn't want one.

So, both men tell me, both hospitals set out to provide quality care that will keep patients here, not traveling to St. Louis, Memphis, or beyond.

"The two hospitals are the largest two employers here by a lot," Bjelich said. "We contribute significantly to the economy."

"I think if we do the right thing and provide for patient choice, and (be) transparent, the rest will take care of itself," Smith added.

Both did want to address the numbers used in one of the articles.

Using data from the American Hospital Directory, it showed the cost of orthopedic surgery at both Cape hospitals running more than $30,000 higher than at Barnes-Jewish in St. Louis.

"There are no surprises in the article," Bjelich said candidly. "Our health care costs are higher than St. Louis, but it's competitive in the region. You can't have the cost discussion without the quality. We have received national recognition at St. Francis in orthopedics, for example."

Smith also calls it a fair comparison, but not apples to apples.

"Some of that data was from 2010, 2011," Smith explained. "We have worked very, very hard here at Southeast to reduce cost over the last two years. We have frozen rates for the past three years. We have taken out…. We've reduced our imaging prices by 50-60%."

And it's no secret the two hospitals advertise, a lot. Both have budgets in the millions, although Saint Francis spends significantly more than Southeast.

"Do you perceive that as an ad war?" I asked Smith.

"I don't," he responded. "First off, a lot of our advertising is about patient education. The back page of the paper is all about patient education. A lot of our advertising is about announcing new services. We are constantly adding new services."

"We are educating the community about what services are now available that previously were not provided," said Bjelich. "That fact that we can tout that is very, very positive. We have to ensure that folks know what is available here, that you don't have to go to St. Louis or Memphis or elsewhere."

Both hospitals are looking to expand in the 2013, and continue competing for patients well beyond Cape Girardeau and southeast Missouri.

"You have to have the facilities to accommodate that care," Bjelich explained. "And I believe we will be well-prepared for that, not just on this site, but through all of our satellites and all of our physician practices."

Smith tells me of the perceived rivalry, "Like we said earlier, I don't spend my time worrying about....they are very busy, high-quality people, good physicians over there. We have the same. I can't spend time worried about that. I'm pretty busy getting my job done here."

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