2017-12-14 / Letters

LETTERS to the EDITOR

Hospital needs ‘significant public support in order to survive’

TO THE EDITOR:

This letter is a request to the citizens of Wilkes County to support our Wills Memorial Hospital. Our hospital management and employees have already taken the logical steps of limiting payroll and eliminating all marginal jobs and cutting costs everywhere possible, as well as trying to develop new lines of revenue, but the financial troubles continue. At this point, the hospital needs a minimum of an additional $1,000,000 annually to be sustainable in both the short and long term.

Your hospital management has identified four initiatives that hold promise for closing the million dollar annual gap that now threatens the survival of this vital local industry. They are:

1. Improved collections of donations under the newly created rural hospital income tax credit program through greater local support and through enhancements to the present legislation. We have raised approximately $250,000 in 2017 through this new legislative initiative. With improvements to the regulations and improved local support we hope to raise over $500,000 in 2018. For more information on this topic see www.Georgiaheart.org or call Susan Pope at the hospital.

2. Raising local property taxes. A one mil increase in property taxes costs the taxpayer approximately $40 per $100,000 of valuation of real estate and would raise approximately $375,000 for the hospital. Our county commissioners have candidly stated that they do not favor a property tax increase to support our hospital. An increase of three mils would raise the needed $1,000,000. We respectfully believe that until a better, more equitable funding source becomes available, that a temporary property tax increase in some amount would be part of a reasonable, short term solution that is far better than risking the hospital closure and the loss of so many local jobs and vital local services.

3. Discussions are now underway with the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the guarantor of the loan, as to what they can do to help us. We will be discussing modifying loan terms, deferral of payments and other options with them. This could ease our short term cash needs in calendar year 2018.

4. We have discussed with our county commissioners and local state representatives the potential of creating a new and additional one cent sales tax to support local public hospitals. A one cent sales tax directed to local hospital support, if authorized by the state legislature and adopted by a local referendum, has the potential of raising a million dollars annually. I understand that our commissioners much favor this form of tax increase. The hospital would be delighted to have such a painless form of annual, long term taxpayer support. Discussions are now underway with our local state legislators on this topic. Though we support the concept, we believe this will be a long term legislative project and would not generate funds for the hospital in the near future. Our hospital needs immediate financial assistance.

Our hospital management is not pleased to find itself in the position of having to go public with the hospital’s financial troubles. However, as trustees of your locally owned hospital, we have the responsibility to face up to these difficult times that are threatening us. Our hospital simply requires some form of significant public financial support in order to survive and right now we have none. While those in Washington, D.C. struggle to improve our healthcare system, we need to act now in the short term to protect this vital and important asset.

We would greatly appreciate your personal communication to our local, state, and federal officials in support of doing what is necessary now to come up with a financial plan of support for our hospital. Working together we can and will find a way to get this done. Your elected officials need to hear from you that this is extremely important.

Thank you!

Most sincerely,

POLLY FIEVET executive committee member

Hospital Authority of Wilkes County

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