Half of survey respondents favor selling BCMC

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Once the various advantages and disadvantages were explained to them, half of the Bedford County citizens surveyed by Prince Market Research said the county should sell Bedford County Medical Center, while only 28 percent said the county should keep the hospital.

The results of the county-commissioned survey were presented Tuesday evening during the regular monthly meeting of Bedford County Board of Commissioners. Dan Prince of Prince Market Research discussed the results and how they were obtained.

Commissioners voted to send the survey results and the issue of what to do about the hospital back to the commission's budget and finance committee and to the special hospital study committee chaired by Edward "Bucker" Huffman.

Early in the survey, respondents were asked a general question about keeping the hospital. At that point, most favored the county keeping it. But then, survey respondents were given some background information: The hospital is in financial trouble, and probably needs a new facility to remain competitive, according to the survey. (Most survey respondents agreed on the need for a new hospital.) If the county has to build that facility, it could result in a tax increase of $40 per year for the average homeowner. However, selling the hospital, either to a for-profit or not-for-profit group, could result in limiting the services that are provided locally, and could cause cutbacks in the availability of charity care.

Once that information was added to the question, 50 percent of respondents favored selling the hospital, while only 28 percent wanted the county to keep it. The survey, which was based on 416 telephone interviews, has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percent.