There has been a lot of false information being spread about Sacred Heart Hospital so I will, hopefully, put these stories to rest. My wife is a doctor at Sacred Heart in Port St. Joe. One of the stories is that Sacred Heart isn't financially stable. Sacred Heart is part of Ascension, and Ascension is one of the leading faith-based health systems in the U.S. Ascension Healthcare reported revenues of $22.6 billion in fiscal 2017. This also dismisses the myth that Sacred Heart is "just after our money.”

I have also heard many stories about all the great work that Weems has done for the citizens of Franklin County but no one has told any stories about Sacred Heart and their involvement in the communities they are in. Instead, all we hear is how, if Sacred Heart comes into Franklin County, they will take all the money, healthcare will suffer and then eventually Sacred Heart will pull out and leave the people of Franklin County with no healthcare at all. All of these statements couldn't be further from the truth.

During Hurricane Michael, Sacred Heart clinics and hospital were the first to open and help the people of the entire area affected by the hurricane. Not only did Sacred Heart help the residents, they also helped their employees. Sacred Heart sent their work crews to employees’ houses and blue-tarped all of them, from doctor to dishwasher. It didn't matter who you were; you were part of the Sacred Heart family.

You would think that would be enough, but it wasn't. They also supplied brand-new generators to any employee who had no power. For the employees who wanted to continue to work after the hurricane but their house was gone or uninhabitable, Sacred Heart put them up at the MainStay Hotel next to the hospital in Port St. Joe while the employees looked for a new place to live or their home was made livable again.

And Sacred Heart didn't stop there either. Each employee was paid whether they worked or not, and each were given a $500 check to help make ends meet. The employees of Sacred Heart also have retirement plans. Does that sound like a company that doesn't care about their employees or the communities around them? I would be interested to hear what Weems did for their employees during and after Hurricane Michael.

In addition, Sacred Heart also set up a triage in Mexico Beach and Panama City so people could get shots, prescriptions and first-aid the days after Hurricane Michael struck.

Finally, I would suggest that a medical mall be built around the corner of Hwy. 65 and Hwy. 98. This location would make healthcare more accessible to a greater number of Franklin County residents and visitors. This also would make it truly a county facility instead of an Apalachicola facility.

If the county commissioners choose Sacred Heart’s proposal, most of the 1-cent sales tax could then be used to purchase more ambulances and pay first responders a living wage. If we had more ambulances, a larger area of the county could be covered. Alligator Point could benefit by having an ambulance stationed there.

I believe this is a better plan than continuing to throw more good money after bad into Weems. Let the professionals handle healthcare.

Joe Wells

St. George Island