Harrison's announcement and the local economy

BREMERTON — As Harrison Medical Center shifts its operations from Bremerton to Silverdale, a question lingers as to the move's economic impact.

The Bremerton medical center employs 511 part-time staff, and 765 full-time staff. Silverdale, where the hospital will move the bulk of its operation, is home to a smaller workforce of 245 part-time and 100 full-time employees. That staffing number will swell as the move commences, which is something that Silverdale's economic interests welcome, as more dollars are likely to flow through local businesses.

"I am excited to see more people (working in Silverdale)," said Jennifer Zuver, president of the board of the Silverdale Chamber of Commerce. "There will be more staff here. They will have their lunch breaks here. And after work they will spend money in Silverdale, and hopefully frequent the restaurants and stores because it will be more convenient to their work location."

In-house staff is but one consideration. Harrison also contracts out for additional work. But contracts are for the entire entity, not just one location such as the Bremerton hospital.

"We contract for services across the organization," Harrison spokeswoman Jacquie Goodwill said. "For example, with one vendor for surgical scrubs, not a different vendor at each campus."

While the move comes as big news to the region, it might not dramatically effect the local economy in relation to health care, according to one expert, John Powers, executive director of the Kitsap Economic Development Alliance.

"From my viewpoint as an economic developer and as a consumer of health care, is that it's about access to quality health care providers," he said. "My sense is that no matter where they are located, that people are drawn into the person behind the stethoscope, the person behind the laser, behind the RX pad. Whether it be at Harrison or the Doctor's Clinic or Group Health, if they are offering the finest in healthcare, access and quality, that's the bottom line from an economic standpoint."

In other words, location might not play as much as a factor for health care receivers, as the doctors and quality of the service.

And Powers noted that Harrison's quality and service recently got a surge through partnering with the Franciscan Health System.

"If you have a larger health-care provider, which you now have with Harrison and Franciscan Health Systems, you now have a larger organization with a bigger balance sheet which can fund quality health care into the future, better physicians, better technology and equipment," Powers said. "If you have the financial ability to do that, then you strengthen your position in the market."

He added, "Change is always hard. I'm not going to undermine that. My sense is that this new strategic alliance between Harrison and Franciscan Health Systems is going to enhance the ability to access quality health care in the county, and at the end of the day, that's what it's all about."


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