This letter is in response to the county commissioners’ decisions at their special meeting Thursday, April 30 about the next steps related to Weems Memorial Hospital.

Unfortunately, the commissioners decided to continue with the status quo and voted Unanimously to begin negotiations with Alliant. They always also include TMH when they discuss this, but at the last joint Alliant/TMH presentation, Tallahassee Memorial Hospital’s CEO Mark O'Bryant made it very, very clear that TMH is not in the picture, and will not be in the picture, unless or until the county has done business with Alliant and gets their financial house in order. Therefore, all negotiations are only between the county and Alliant. I think that the county keeps referring to TMH to give the people the illusion that somehow, after many, many years of TMH ostensibly being Franklin County's healthcare partner, they are going to finally help us. I know that we are all smart enough to know that this is bunk!

The commissioners also made a decision at their meeting which creates a conflict of interest. They voted to have Interim CEO David Walker be part of the negotiations with Alliant. Since Mr. Walker will ultimately become an employee of Alliant when the deal is struck, how is it possible he can work towards a deal that is in the best interests of Franklin County and the taxpayers, while also being mindful that he is negotiating with his future employer?

What makes me very, very sad and appalled by our commissioners is that in spite of the enormous outpouring of emails and phone calls to the commissioners by Franklin County citizens, some of which were shared with me, and were very eloquent and made a strong case for it, the commissioners ignored the people and what they wanted, as well as the amazing proposal made by Ascension Sacred Heart. The commissioners had one, best shot at Finally bringing in comprehensive, quality, accessible, and affordable healthcare to Franklin County and an opportunity to partner with a successful, proven healthcare system which was going to invest millions here. The commissioners blew it. Unfortunately, Ascension CEO Roger Hall is retiring soon, so we will no longer have available to us the stellar win-win deal he tried to make with the current commissioners.

Make no mistake about it! Each and every commissioner put his own personal self-interests and political gains above ensuring that All of the people and visitors of our county would have access to great healthcare. It was a no-brainer for us to partner with Ascension but the commissioners thumbed their nose at them and us, the people, in order to keep their own political position and curry favor with their family and friends. Please remember this in November's election when three commissioners are up for re-election, and in Nov. 2022 when the other two commissioners are up for re-election. Until Franklin County gets new leadership who will look out for the best interests of All Of The People and visitors of Franklin County, instead of their own best interests, nothing positive will happen to improve the quality and accessibility of healthcare for all of us.

If the commissioners won’t change, then we must change the commissioners. Think about it.


Gail M. Riegelmayer