Our View: Hospital deal the fruits of Wheeless’ labor

Let us join all the other jubilant Crittenden Countians in congratulating County Judge Woody Wheeless for pulling the rabbit out of the hat, so to speak, by salvaging a hospital deal gone bad and working with Baptist Memorial Health Care to build a brand new $25 million, 50,000-square-foot, 15-to-20 bed hospital. This news has been long time in coming after the previous prospect, Ameris backed out of the promised deal after voters approved passage of a penny sales tax to help make this a sure thing. While no one is saying on the record, we feel Ameris bailed on the deal when they were told the tax revenues collected couldn’t be simply handed over to them for their own use. From what we have been told, the tax money will now be spent on building this brand new hospital, location still unknown, while Baptist will be in charge of actually purchasing the land it will sit on. Now then, there seems to be concern among some county justices over Baptist owning the land and the county owning the building. Based on what Baptist officials explained as the reason they want to buy the property makes perfect sense to us and certainly shouldn’t be a stumbling block to all the effort that has been put into this latest development. So seems Baptist got into a three year legal battle with Oxford, Ms., that went all the way to the Mississippi Supreme Court because rival developers and politics stalled the project. We can certainly understand the concerns Baptist officials have and having them actually purchase the property with the possible option to sell it back to the county at cost should seal the deal without hesitation. We can understand that when there are this many individuals involved, specially politicians, not everyone will be totally satisfied but, let us make it vividly clear, for any one of them to sour the deal over minor and irrelevant concerns would be an absolute slap in the face to all those individuals who have worked so hard in providing primary health care to every Crittenden Countian. The citizens of Crittenden County have been let down entirely too many times in the past by situations that have resulted in absolutely no local emergency facilities or a primary care facility here. This serious situation has cost the taxpayers of Crittenden Countian untold inconvenience not to mention an enormous amount of money that has been spent on an abandoned hospital building in West Memphis when previous operators filed bankruptcy. Then the Ameris deal fell apart leaving Judge Wheeless scrambling for other possibilities which has now led to this deal with Baptist officials. Once again, we would like to commend Judge Wheeless for never giving up in his unselfish commitment to the citizens he serves to provide them with a hospital they so desperately need.

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