Forget McDreamy notions of a medical school — drones are the better bet

Economics is sometimes referred to as “the dismal science,” having been given that name by the Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle who, by living through winters in Scotland, was an expert on dismality.

This week, an idea was floated that gives us an opportunity to show why economics gets such a depressing moniker.

Last week a candidate for Mesa County commissioner, while addressing the area’s perceived lack of physicians, suggested brightly our local university should just start a medical school to solve problem.

It is an exciting concept. Imagine living where Drs. McDreamy, McSteamy and others nicknamed by using adjectives as nouns, live, love and fight the system — because it’s about the patient, not about the money!

A medical school and teaching hospital might result in more physicians in the area, but not many, because people usually move to where they get paid best. While our setting is nice, only a limited amount of folks are going to be drawn to it — especially if Amendment 69 is passed and physicians will be reduced to seeing patients at what will amount to a Medicaid reimbursement rate.

Short of establishing a feudal system and tying people to the land, I think that will lower our bargaining power for the medical profession.

Beyond that, the price of starting a medical school is a pretty big bite.

The state of Texas looked at establishing another medical school in 2012 and found “… that the amount of general revenue needed to cover six-year start-up costs for a new medical school would be $92 million for administration, faculty, and staff… in the first six years (costs) would exceed the formula income by an average of $14.3 million annually. An additional $2 million in general revenue would be required for operational costs, resulting in a need for ongoing general revenue special item funding of $16.3 million annually… When fully operational, annual general revenue obligations for a medical school would be at least $168 million.”

It appears that even after the enormous initial expense of startup, the facility would have to be further supported by revenue of about $16 million per year, which is just a little bit less than the publisher of this newspaper makes in the same period (just seeing if anyone is paying attention).

What we deduce from this is the community and the college aren’t going to be building any medical schools in the near future because to put it technically — we can’t afford it.

This analysis leaves out the time and expense of establishing desirability for a particular institution and a reputation to draw students who are willing to pay large amounts of tuition in the hope of somehow recouping it in the job market.

I’ll grant you that doesn’t seem to be the case recently as the cost of education skyrockets past any inflationary curve and students borrow large sums of money to obtain degrees that are as sought after in the job market as John Kerry for a Brad Pitt look-alike contest.

A little investigation determined that Colorado Mesa University is already pursuing a wise strategy in cultivating advanced nursing degrees out of its already successful undergraduate program. Nurse practitioners are one of the fastest growing areas of the health profession and are being seen as able to perform many of the duties which in the past were performed only by physicians.

The reason I bring this up is that while economics is the dismal science, it’s more so when you don’t seem to have any idea of the relationship between product and purchaser.

Far too often we see what amounts to random ideas thrown about for economic development that are grounded in unexamined political choreography or what people would like to have as opposed to something that could succeed.

Postulating pie-in-the-sky notions for political consumption waste time and diverts attention from more realistic assessment.

For example, our area is exceptionally qualified as a location for a commercial drone manufacturing and testing facility. We haven’t heard much about it because it’s not very sexy, but we enjoy relatively good dry air, high visibility, little interference with military or commercial aircraft operations and a scalable manufacturing and transportation base.

This is a rapidly growing technology that could reasonably be attached to our workforce skills — while taking advantage of our unique location.

It’s not McDreamy, but it is feasible.

Rick Wagner is a Grand Junction attorney who maintains a political blog, The War on Wrong. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). com.


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