It's the law
Recently the Arkansas Attorney General, along with the Arkansas Press Association, presented several meetings statewide to educate elected officials and others about the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act. It's unfortunate that the Fulton County Judge and members of the Hospital Board did not attend one of these meetings. If any of them had, the closed meeting, which took place last week at the Fulton County Hospital, would never have happened.
As the eyes and ears for the public, we (the press) had as much right to attend this meeting as any of the board members.
The Freedom of Information Act was passed to protect the citizen's right to know what is going on. We're sure that most of the board members did not know the FOIA was being violated -- but they should have. The hospital is owned by the citizen's of Fulton County and the residents of this county have the legal right, because of the FOIA, to know what is being discussed and in what direction the hospital may be going.
Most elected and appointed officials have made an honest attempt to learn how the FOIA affects them as a public officer. Most do not knowingly violate this law. Most are glad to see the press at meetings and welcome them. These officials know that having the press at meetings protects them as much as it does the public.
After listening to the sad state the hospital is currently in, we believe, without a doubt, that the only answer to these problems will come from BRMC. This could be the best thing that has happen to this area for many years. BRMC at Mountain Home is a first-rate facility.
The security of continued and improved hospital and emergency room services, as well as a bit of job security for the 100+ people who are employed at the Fulton County Hospital, is worth overcoming a few hurdles to make this happen.
It would be a tragedy if this area lost another hospital.
We don't know if the proposal presented to board members is going to be the best thing for this community, but there are several people who think this will be a great thing for everyone.
The Fulton County Hospital will still be the Fulton County Hospital, but it will operate as a subsidiary of BRMC. The building is not being sold, but will be leased to an organization (BRMC) who will, among other things, be financially able to upgrade equipment and improve services.
As this plan moves forward we will follow it closely.
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