Marion officials praise county’s deal with Baptist

Demster: ‘There is a lot of correlation between healthy communities … and healthy businesses’

By Mark Randall news@theeveningtimes.com

Marion officials are unanimous in their praise of County Judge Woody Wheeless for striking a deal to bring Baptist Memorial Health Systems to Crittenden County to build a new hospital. “We support it and believe that Woody found a good partner,” said Mayor Frank Fogleman. “I think it is great that there is something in the works that will provide critical and necessary medical care in Crittenden County and eastern Arkansas.” Fogleman agreed that it was a “home run.” “There are many quality providers in Memphis and we have certainly aligned ourselves with one of the best,” Fogleman said. The county announced a deal with Baptist to build a 15 to 20 bed $25 million new facility on a to be determined location in West Memphis. Baptist will make use of the one cent sales tax which will generate $30 million over the next five years to construct and operate the new hospital, which is expected to take 18 months to build and open sometime in early 2018. Baptist is the largest healthcare provider in the Mid-South region. Marion Chamber of Commerce President Mike Demster said he got asked all the time whether the hospital was going to reopen, and that hospitals and quality of health care availability rank high on site selectors priorities for economic development prospects. “There is a lot of correlation between healthy communities and healthy workforces and healthy businesses,” Demster said. “Employers want to take care of their employees and their families. And if they need to recruit in specialized talent, most mothers are going to want to know that their kids are going to have access to good health care.” Demster said Crittenden County could not have found a better or stronger partner in Baptist. “My hat is off to Woody and the folks who pulled this off,” Demster said. “Baptist knows what they are doing. They have strong ties to this area and run a good show. So we are excited about it.”

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