Over the last year and a half, much has been written and discussed about Riverland Medical Center. Mainly, should a new facility be built and if so, where. I personally believe that a new hospital is needed since the present one is over 50 years old and has outlived its usefulness. I am for the new facility if the Board can show how they can pay for it. A quick calculation shows that a $35,000,000 loan for 40 years at a 2.75% interest rate will require monthly notes of $120,304.73 or an annual obligation of $1,443,656 per year. The Feasibility Study projects a loss for the first 2-3 years after construction.
I am also for the new facility being built on land that the Board already owns behind the existing hospital. This land is free and clear and would not require any additional land to be purchased. The new location that the Board is advocating is 3.2 miles east of the present location. From the red light at the Kentucky Fried Chicken to the present site is one mile, whereas to the new site it will be 2.2 miles. Therefore, an ambulance coming from the Sicily Island/Waterproof area will have to travel 3.2 miles farther to get to the new site. One coming from the Jonesville area another 2.2 miles. Who knows if this extra travel time would make a difference in a life or death situation?
The public has been told by Mr. Rucker, the hospital’s administrator, Mr. Graves, the chairman of the hospital board, and Mr. Taylor, the consultant and former employee of the USDA, that the Feasibility Study says that a new hospital should be built and located at the proposed site on the Ferriday-Vidalia highway. And if they do not follow the results of the study, the USDA will not make the loan to construct the new hospital. Well, gentlemen, I have read the Feasibility Study produced by Stroudwater and nowhere does it say that the hospital should be re-located. In fact in their seven-page conclusion, they state on page 49, “Survey results clearly show that building a new hospital is significantly more important than where it is located. Among respondents selecting one location over the other, 33% preferred the current location and 18% the alternate location off Highway 84.” Also, in an email from Mr. Verne Kennedy to Billy Rucker, he states, “The survey does indicate that a new facility will attract more patients and having a new facility is much more important than where it is located.” The conclusions of the study are very subjective at best.
The new location that they are pushing for is 10.2 miles from Merit Hospital, just barely outside the 10 mile requirement. The new location is 6 miles from the center of Vidalia, which I consider where Concordia Bank and the Post Office are located. Thus from the center of Vidalia to Merit Hospital in Natchez would be 4.2 miles. The Riverland Board is making a very big assumption if they think that the people of Vidalia are going drive 6 miles west to a new Riverland Hospital versus driving across the bridge 4.2 miles to Merit Hospital. The people in Vidalia have used Riverland sparingly in the past and a new facility will change very few minds in my opinion.
In closing, the $550,000 that they have agreed to pay for the new site could be used to buy a lot of new equipment. I encourage the taxpayers to get a copy of the Feasibility Study and read it and form your own opinion. To Mr. Rucker, Graves and Taylor, I say as Judge Judy would say—”Don’t pee on my leg and tell me it is raining”.
Barry L. Maxwell