Fulton County's health care providers, civic leaders and concerned residents have done a marvelous job explaining the need for the half-cent hospital tax which will be placed before the voters Tuesday. There is little we can add, except to say that we are convinced it's the right thing to do.
Changes in reimbursements threaten rural hospitals across the country, and many have already closed. Fulton County Hospital, which once had a healthy surplus, is now losing money every year. The surplus is nearly gone, which means the very existence of the hospital is threatened.
According to the Salem Chamber of Commerce, the hospital provides $3.5 million in salaries annually for 141 health care workers and other employees. It adds $15 million to the local economy.
Without the hospital, the ambulance service, with stations in Mammoth Spring and Salem, would also go out of business. Should the sales tax increase fail, Fulton County residents face the possibility of another tax being imposed upon them to pay for a new ambulance service.
For extended hospital stays, having a hospital in the middle of the county, operated by a staff comprised of the same people we see in church and at ballgames, reduces the stress of being away from home and helps patients' sense of well being.
More importantly, the presence of an emergency room means patients can get the immediate medical treatment they need. And critical patients can be stabilized before being transferred to larger hospitals. The amount of time it takes to receive emergency treatment can literally mean the difference between life and death.
We've heard testimony from many Fulton County residents who tell us their loved ones would not be here today were it not for the emergency treatment they received at the hospital.
We saw yesterday a healthy baby boy who was revived at Fulton County Hospital. If the dimples on his fat cheeks and the twinkle in his smiling eyes were not reason enough to keep the hospital, the look in his mother's eyes as she held him certainly was.
For the economy, for the jobs, for the lives of Fulton Countians, we support the sales tax increase for Fulton County Hospital on the April 13 ballot.