Is there any price commissioners won’t pay to move this sick patient forward?

Only 1,553 people voted for the Health Care Trust Fund tax back on Nov. 6, 2007. What they voted on was a “One Cent Sales Surtax for improving the quality and delivery of healthcare” and “To replace Weems Hospital” among other points. You created that language commissioners, not the people. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then.

Why do you think, commissioners, that we didn’t build a new hospital years ago? Is it because we did not have the money, or we could not figure out what to build? Was it a lack of will on commissioners part? No, not at all. Commissioners for nearly 12 years have anxiously anticipated a splashy grand opening. So, what’s kept us from moving forward? Let’s count just the top five:

Inability to get reliable financial information that would allow commissioners to move forward with confidence. In fact, this very day we still don’t have reliable projected income statements from a third party that could give anyone comfort. We also have no idea how much this small facility will cost. And after spending a $1.5 million so far, you are no closer to knowing.
Weems has lost a combined $27 million before subsidies over this period of time. Millions more than the designated subsidy of half of the Healthcare Trust Fund that you stipulated should fill that gap and which is among the most generous hospital support in the state per capita
We don’t have any doctors and we have no budget to get any. It costs a minimum of $225,000 per year to acquire a new doctor and Weems has zero budget to acquire one, much less two!
The harebrained scheme to pay for the hospital note with depreciation reimbursement from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is equivalent to eating your seed corn. Where will the future money be for replacement and repair if you use it to pay debt? Also, we detected a mistake in the limited financial spreadsheet presented that showed accelerated depreciation remaining constant and not reducing each year. Amateur hour.
What’s a hospital without patients? Weems typically has zero to two patients staying overnight. Let me say that again. There are days that there are no patients at Weems. Do we really think that freshening up the facade without increasing services that we cannot afford to add will change the economics of this project?

Commissioners, you have the cart before the horse. You can’t seriously make a decision to move forward with the incredible financial uncertainty before us. Just last week Weems needed an extra $100,000 to make payroll. Citizens want better healthcare, not a jobs program for Apalachicola. You need a new million dollar-plus CT scan machine and many other things that you won’t hear about until after you are hooked and landed. This is quicksand, commissioners. Look at other options that will provide the promised superior healthcare at a fraction of the cost on the table. Fulfill the needs of the many citizens of Franklin County, not a slavish desire to build something, anything, regardless of risk.

Allan Feifer

President, Concerned Citizens of Franklin County