2007-05-24 / Letters

Base hospital decisions on facts, not misinformation

TO THE EDITOR:

In his letter that appeared in last week's edition, Joseph M. Riley applauded the county commissioners' decision not to agree to guarantee the bonds for the planned hospital project. Mr. Riley is certainly entitled to his opinion, but despite the many letters he's read and the many people he's talked to about the proposal, his letter indicates he is still ill-informed about much relating to the hospital.

Mr. Riley stated that he doesn't think it's the responsibility of the taxpayers of Wilkes County to shore up the finances of the hospital on a continuing basis. Apparently he is unaware that Wills Memorial is a county facility that provides a service to the people of the country just as do the sheriff's department, the school system, and the road department. He is also apparently unaware of the nearly $1 million per year in uncompensated care Wills Memorial provides to the medically indigent of our community. Although some state money is received for indigent care, it falls far short of the hospital's actual costs. He believes that he will require more medical care as he ages and that specialists will be necessary to meet his needs. Mr. Riley obviously doesn't know that physicians representing seven different specialties (general surgery, cardiology, ear nose and throat, gynecology, orthopedics, urology, and ophthalmology) conduct clinics and do procedures at Wills Memorial on a regular basis. These doctors see over 225 patients each month and in addition, do about 35 outpatient procedures monthly. These numbers mean Wilkes County people not having to travel elsewhere for treatment. More specialties and equipment are being planned, so these numbers are expected to increase.

Mr. Riley mentioned funds from Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) and the Commissioners' budget going to the hospital. It is unclear what his point is by this. It is true that SPLOST funds have been approved by the voters for the hospital, but is Mr. Riley saying

it was not their right to do so? I believe that the commissioners' budget

is in fact the people's budget, and that they were acting for the people when they allocated the funds he is referring to. Whether it's been worth it or not is a matter of opinion, as Mr. Riley suggests, but I'm confident that the majority of Wilkes County citizens believe financial support to Wills Memorial is worthwhile. I would also point out that while all do not do so, it is certainly not unheard of for counties to provide financial support annually to their hospitals. Morgan County provides a million dollars a year to Morgan Memorial, and Putnam County provides about 500 thousand dollars to the hospital in Eatonton.

Authority members and hospital management have met with representatives of two national firms that specialize in hospital financing who believe that Wills Memorial is a viable candidate for tax-free bond financing. (I hasten to add that neither will earn a cent unless Wills Memorial gets financing acceptable to the Authority.) It is both interesting and somewhat troubling that some local people do not have that same level of confidence in Wills Memorial and the future of our county that these "foreigners" do.

People have every right to believe as they wish about the hospital, but sometimes they do not have or in some cases do not seem to want the true story. That's unfortunate because most would agree that it's preferable for beliefs and decisions to be based on facts, and not misinformation, half truths or ignorance.

LAWRENCE BURTON

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