Residents sound-off about plans for new hopsital

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By JOSH NICHOLS
Daily Press writer
Prior to the start of The Memorial Hospital board of trustees meeting Wednesday night, board chair Judy Downing announced that a half hour would be allotted to the Citizens for Affordable and Quality Health Care to express their concerns about plans to build a new hospital.
The Citizens for Affordable and Quality Health Care is a group consisting of anonymous members that ran an advertisement in last Wednesday's Craig Daily Press expressing their concerns about the proposed hospital.
Several people rose to speak, none identifying themselves as being affiliated with the group.
Jim Showalter, who spoke at last month's meeting, spoke again Wednesday night.
He asked hospital administrator Randy Phelps, "Do you believe in order to recruit and retain doctors, a new facility is necessary?"
Phelps responded, "You are in a much better position to recruit when you have a nicer facility. Prior experience tells me once you get the new building built the doctors come to town."
Community member Lolly Hathhorn also went forward to speak.
"I don't know why we need a new hospital," she said. "'The best small community hospital in the nation' is an ad in the newspaper. If that is the case, then why do we need a new hospital?"
When a board member responded that the ad referred to the hospital staff, she responded, "I don't come to the hospital because of the people. If and when this happens, I don't care if you build a new hospital as long as you don't ask me for any money. Taxes are already too high."
John Peroulis thought the board has not been open enough with the community.
"I think we are going about this the wrong way," he said. "If the taxpayers of this community are going to build this hospital, we need to be involved in it from the beginning."
Board member Don Myers told Peroulis, "We will have the support of the community before we build a new hospital."
Tom Maneotis shared Peroulis's concerns.
"What the people are upset about is all of a sudden we are buying all this property," he said. "We've already spent over a million dollars on property when we could have bought a 1/2 million dollar lot somewhere else."
"Nobody knows which direction we're going in right now," he said.
"You're all appreciated," he said to the board members. "We're not here to fight you, so let's just all come together."
Phelps responded that no definite plans have been provided to the public yet because the administration is not yet sure of its plans.
"We're not going to know where we are until sometime in December," he said. "As soon as the management knows, we'll share it with the board at the next meeting and let everyone know."
When the announcement was made that the board had to continue on with its meeting agenda, the group of between six and 10 people stood and began to leave the room.
When a board member invited them to stay for the remainder of the meeting, Hathhorn responded by saying, "Boring," and walked out.
Later, Phelps said he realizes the need to provide the community with more information.
"From my standpoint, we're aware there's a need for information. In the absence of information there is going to be questions," he said. "It's been our objective to get far enough in our plans before we start talking about the building."
The discussion on what to do with the hospital is not a new one, he said.
"Truthfully, we've been talking about fixing the problems with the hospital for over 10 years. Where we are today is a culmination of over 100 hours of meetings and weighing options."
In regard to the people's concerns about increased taxes, Phelps was persistent that his goal was to find funding elsewhere without the aide of tax dollars.
"I won't back down from that until I'm convinced it's not doable," he said. "I'm dead set on making it happen. I'm 100 percent committed to finding a way to do the project without more taxes," he said. "Until I'm sure it's not doable, that's the direction we're headed."

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