The lead story on the front page of last week's The News was about the groundbreaking for the expansion of the Fulton County Hospital. It was a great story detailing a progressive plan that will benefit the entire area -- Fulton, Izard and Sharp counties in Arkansas and Oregon County in Missouri.
As we were preparing the pages for printing we noticed a bit of history repeating itself. On page 12A of The News is the front page of the April 6, 1967, issue of the Salem Headlight. A feature picture on this page shows the ground breaking ceremony for a 14-bed addition to the Fulton County Hospital. Forty years later, that's a piece of history we're all glad to repeat.
The story said the 14-bed expansion would cost $148,410. That was a lot of money back in 1967 and is still a lot today, but it sounds pretty low when you compare it to today's expansion cost of $3.4 million.
Things cost a little more these days, don't they?
Fulton County deserves a pat on the back for their willingness to pass a half-cent sales tax during a special election in April of 2006. We don't know if the hospital would have closed without this added revenue, but it certainly wouldn't be expanding and improving services if voters had said no.
The board of directors, administration and staff should be commended for their effort to move this expansion forward.
We all watched the closing of the hospital in Cherokee Village with disappointment for the loss of services and employment it provided. Since that time, Fulton County Hospital, Baxter Regional Medical Center, White River Medical Center and Ozarks Medical Center have all worked to ensure residents have access to the best health care facilities.
In an emergency situation, personnel will transport a patient to the nearest hospital and many times that is Fulton County Hospital. The new addition will house the emergency room as well as ancillary services such as lab, X-ray and surgery. After stabilizing, a patient can be taken by ambulance or air-lifted to another hospital with different speciality services if needed. But, that first stop at Fulton County Hospital has, and will in the future, save lives.
Police, fire personnel, first responders and paramedics work as a team in this area. Most of the time a first responder is a police officer or volunteer fireman trained to evaluate a medical emergency.
We have many professionals in this area and, if needed, we have access to many more medical specialists nearby.
We have pharmacists who never hesitate to answer a question or lend a helping hand. They also have the uncanny ability to actually read a doctor's instruction.
There are several nursing and rehabilitation centers in our region and Fulton County Nursing Center will move into a new building in the near future.
Fountain Place, a non-profit organization, has plans to develop assisted living apartments on their 23-acre establishment in Cherokee Village. They hope to someday work with a nearby medical center to develop this much needed facility.
Put everything together and we have a pretty good system of medical care in our area. Not flawless, but a system we can certainly be proud of. As the Fulton County Hospital slogan says, we have "Good care close to home."