West Memphis leaders pleased with Baptist deal

Officials want new hospital within their city

By John Rech news@theeveningtimes.com

As word spread about the Quorum Court meeting last Friday and the county’s agreement for a brand new hospital, residents, including city officials, reacted to the news. “We are for a hospital for the area,” said Economic Development Director Ward Wimbish. “It speaks well for the community when you are out selling the community, especially a hospital like Baptist. We can say right there — there is the building.” After Baptist Memorial Health Care executives pitched the idea, the court entered into a memorandum of understanding with them, a move County Judge Woody Wheeless called “a home run” for the county. In its presentation the company labeled the new facility Baptist Memorial Hospital Crittenden County (BMHCC) and told the county’s elected officials their site selection study centers on West Memphis. “What is important to industry about a hospital is that the families can be taken care of quickly and for employees and workman’s comp,” said Wimbish. “If someone gets hurt, you want the them in the emergency room right then and there. Putting them on the Interstate can be pretty quick, but it is still not like having something right here.” City Planner Paul Luker acknowledged that it is too early to expect Baptist to have fully-rendered plans. And while no land deal for the new BMHCC has been announced by the company. But Luker did anticipate a high-quality building plan. “I don’t see anything but positives,” said Luker. “I agree with the need for it to be centrally located. Generally, hospitals have nice architecture, which would be a nice addition to our community.” West Memphis City Councilman James Pulliaum said he knows where he wants it and when he wants the new hospital. “If they are going to build it, it needs to be in West Memphis for sure,” said Pulliaum. “Baptist has what it takes to run a hospital; I’ve used them myself.” For Pulliaum and his senior-citizen constituents, the future cannot come soon enough. “In Ward 2, we have five nursing homes,” said Pulliaum. “You’re talking about two years down the highway. We’ve got to tell them it’s two more years. The distance between what we’ve been promising people and what it is now is too far off for our seniors.” “What everybody has missed is the confidence of an emergency room,” said Wimbish. “We need it. The time has come.”

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