Good morning! I am writing to congratulate the Concerned Citizens of Franklin County and Mr. Allan Feifer on the excellent article appearing in the May 11 issue of the Times referencing Weems Memorial Hospital (See page A4 “New Weems contract must cap costs”), and to mention some of my thoughts on the plight of Weems Memorial Hospital from a member of the hospital staff of long, long ago, and to make a few suggestions that hopefully will help move the new proposed hospital forward to reality.

I recall when the new hospital opened at its current location in 1959 with 25 patient beds and a maternity and surgical unit. It was my privilege to have been a member of the medical staff for 50 years. For many of those early years I was the only physician on the staff and I delivered about 1,500 babies and performed many surgeries, from general surgery to orthopedic surgery, along with my non-surgical practice. The average hospital census was around 15 to 17 patients and the hospital generated a profit of several thousand dollars annually. And I repeat that I was the only physician on the staff for over 25 years.

Since my retirement 17 years ago, the hospital seems to have gone into a downward spiral with a daily census of one or two inpatients. Surgery and obstetrics have disappeared. From afar it seems to be more of an emergency room than a full-service hospital. The hospital needs to attract young doctors just out of their training, and this will happen spontaneously if a new, modern facility is built with the same facilities available as we had in 1959. New doctors will attract new patients. A census of one or two inpatients cannot sustain a hospital.

I recall a state program that once paid for medical students’ tuition, etc. if a particular student agreed to go practice in underserved areas for three years after completion of his training. This should be looked into, for it would provide young physicians an opportunity to start their medical, surgical or obstetrical practice. The idea is that after three years, they would stay in that community. Someone should check this out to learn if the program is still in effect.

It is not my desire to blame anyone for the deplorable situation that the hospital finds itself in. However, the county commissioners should give the hospital the attention it needs by building a new facility. They already have much of the money from the sales tax and they can get additional funds from the selling of bonds, etc. A new hospital would be a great asset to Franklin County and attract young physicians. When patients leave the county to get their medical care, the business community loses because people will tend to shop on these out-of-town visits. There would be less wear-and-tear on the ambulances, for there would be less need to transport patients elsewhere for treatment. It would be a source of employment for local citizens as well. Everyone would benefit, but primarily the patients.

When people move to new locations to live, they invariably look into what medical facilities are available, and if there are doctors practicing there to take care of them.

The board of county commissioners are responsible for constructing and operating the hospital and I am confident that they will live up to that awesome responsibility and move on for the great need of adequate medical care in the community. The BCC did not hesitate to build the old hospital in 1949. The hospital board has the responsibility of operating the hospital.

I wish that I could make an appearance before the county commissioners to express my concerns, but at age 94, I am restricting my travels, so I am expressing my thoughts with this letter. If anyone would like to respond to the above, I can be reached by e4mail at n._photis@bellsouth.net.

While I no longer reside among you, my thoughts and prayers are for the people of Apalachicola, with whom I lived among my 79 years, from my birth in 1923 by Dr. George Weems, until my retirement.

I urge everyone in the county to attend any county commission meeting that has the hospital on its agenda and freely express their concerns and ideas. I would hope the commissioners would welcome their comments. A new hospital is very possible, but you, the people, must make your wishes known and follow through with it. Time is of the essence.

With all good wishes for a successful outcome for a new Weems Hospital, I am

Respectfully,

Photis Nichols, M.D.