Residents voice opposition to hospital move

Two nights ago when the Craig City Council tabled a decision on writing a letter of support for construction of a new hospital in Craig, council members said they did not want to provide a letter because they did not want to imply that it was OK for a hospital be constructed at the current site.

"I think we heard from the public 'very definitely not at that site' and I think the letter needs to reflect that," said Councilor Tom Gilchrist. "It didn't seem to matter to the public if the cost came in lower at the same site, they definitely didn't want a new hospital there."

But Wednesday night at The Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees meeting, a group of local residents expressed opinions that flew in the face of Gilchrist's words, and the council's justification for not providing a letter.

About 12 people attended the meeting to say the hospital should stay where it is.

Rose Hutton said the hospital board needs to quit delaying, and move forward with its previous plan to build at the current location.

"If the hospital stays where it is people in the community would get the same good treatment they've gotten the last 50 years," she said.

Before last fall, the TMH board was doing just that, making plans to build a new hospital at the same site where TMH currently sits.

But board members, listening to a packed meeting room of people upset with the plans at the Holiday Inn of Craig, agreed to explore other sites.

But Hutton said those concerns were expressed too late.

"Where was that group three years ago?" she said. "I don't remember hearing any protests. The board was on the right track."

Resident Dean Gent agreed.

"I thought you were headed in the right direction to begin with," he said. "I would urge you to do this at the same site. You're on the number one site right now."

Gent said the city council's decision not to provide a letter of support to the hospital "stinks."

"If they cared about Craig they would get on board," he said.

Ron LaSelle, who owns the Golden Cavvy Restaurant and Lounge in downtown Craig, said if the hospital moves away from downtown, so will the businesses.

"If you move out it will probably really destroy the downtown," he said.

Two doctors at The Memorial Hospital who own offices close to the current site, attended the meeting to say they thought the hospital should stay where it is.

Dr. Pamela Kinder said her office used to be close to Country General on the west side of Craig, but has since moved in the vicinity of TMH.

"I know it doesn't seem that far away but it makes a big difference when you need to run tests on patients at the hospital," she said. "When we need to run X-rays or labs we send them to the hospital."

She said if the hospital moves, it will lose that business from doctors in surrounding offices.

If a patient needs a test done, they will get sent to Craig Medical Center or Moffat Family Clinic, which are both in the area of the current hospital, she said.

Board Member Sue Lyster said the points made Wednesday were the reason the board originally wanted to build at the same site.

"As a board we considered all of these issues and that's why we chose this location in the first place," she said. "But we told a group of people that we would look at another location and compare it dollar for dollar with the present location."

TMH Administrator Randy Phelps said the irony of the hospital's situation, is in many other communities he has read about, hospital officials want to build away from the center of the community, while the public wants them to stay in the center of town.

"We have a city council that does not recognize that," said board member Jack Bonaker. "How can you fight city council when they are the ones that should be begging us to stay where we are?"

The TMH board set a meeting to discuss and compare potential sites next Thursday.

Board members have no time-line on when they went to have a site chosen by.

Originally the hospital was going to apply for a grant from the Department of Local Affairs through the county by April 1. But the sense Wednesday night was that probably would not be enough time.

Board member Ron Danner said going into the site evaluations, the board needs to leave politics out, and make the decision that will be best for the patients.

"That's our job and that's what we have to do," Danner said. "We need to leave the history and biases behind going into this."

Board member Don Myers said the board is not going to be popular with certain factions of the community on any decision it makes about location.

"Not everybody's going to like it," Myers said of the decision the board is eventually going to have to make. "I can see that right now."


Josh Nichols can be reached at 824-7031 or jnichols@craigdailypress.com.

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