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Rural Hospital Defies Trends

In recent years the conventional wisdom on rural medicine has become: Can't be done, doesn't pay, isn't cost-effective.

But even in the brave new world of managed care and anonymous "doc in the box" medical service, at least one small hospital is bucking the trend. CBS This Morning's Cynthia Bowers reports.



Way out in the Illinois prairie, in the middle of nowhere, lies the tiny village of Hopedale. ItÂ's barely a wide spot in the road on rural Route 122, exactly the kind of town that, as everyone knows, can't keep even a part-time doctor.

Yet the Hopedale Medical Complex is a rural hospital that has defied every piece of conventional wisdom in the book of medical economics. In 1952, a brash, young country doctor named Lawrence Rossi told the town fathers, if they wanted to keep him, they'd have to build him a hospital.

"The first thing, you know, they organized a group and formed a committee," Dr. Rossi recalls.
"They had a meeting and they decided to build a hospital."

The town sold $75,000 in bonds door to door, and Dr. Rossi mortgaged his home, took a personal loan, and even borrowed from his mother to get the place built. The tough part was keeping doctors.

Sometimes if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. Dr. Rossi couldn't hire doctors so he sired them. His son, Dr. Al Rossi, is the general surgeon and he works with brother Phil, a vascular surgeon. And Dr. Lawrence Rossi Jr. is the anesthesiologist, assisted by his sister Laura, a nurse anesthetist.

Down the hall, Dr. Matt Rossi performs endoscopic examinations while over at the pharmacy, Lisa Rossi McLaughlin, doctor of pharmacology, doles out the medication.

And at Hopedale Common, an assisted-living center, is run by Cynthia Rossi. Nine of the 11 children work at the hospital, including five doctors.

Of course, in every family, there is "a black sheep," says Mark Rossi, the only one of six boys who didn't become a doctor. Instead he became a lawyer; he is the hospital's attorney.

The kids are continuing the fine Rossi tradition of violating every rule of medical economics. Decisions are made on the basis of what's best for patient care. ItÂ's medicine the old-fashioned way and it is working.

"When it comes to treating the patients, the sky is the limit," Dr. Rossi says.

And when it comes to medical equipment, the sky is the limit, too. ThereÂ's a $1 million open MRI, an expense no administrator in his right mind would have approved for such a tiny hospital. But it is the doctors who run the place and they were certain this state-of-the-art equipment would pay for itself. They were right.

Then there are the highly trained specialists. Dr. Matt Rossi, for example, a vascular surgeon at the top of his field, can be found performing complicated specialized surgery, seeing general practice patients during office hours and even doing rounds. This breeds a kin of intimacy that Hopedale patients appreciate and come back for.

And why have the Rossi children with all their medical training come back to a tiny town?

"We are living our dad's dream; this has been our lives," Dr. Laura Rossi says. "[It's] in our souls and I don't think any of us would be happy, truly happy anywhere else."

Now two of the 45 Rossi grandchildren are graduating from medical school. And where do they plan to practice? Hopedale Medical.

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