New ES hospital is primary topic for commission
Discussion about the possibility of a new hospital was continued at the Eureka Springs Hospital Commission meeting on Monday.
An idea that has long been considered, the new hospital would be located at the western end of town. Allegiance Health Management, which operates Eureka Springs Hospital, has said it would be willing to contribute as much as $20 million to build the facility. However, construction would be contingent upon extending sewer lines to the new location at the city's expense.
McClelland Engineering was hired to perform a study from Pivot Rock Road to the city limits to figure out how much the sewer lines would cost, but no updates concerning the survey have been reported.
"The survey has not been concluded yet," commission chairman Michael Merry said.
Mayor Morris Pate said that the cost of the sewer line extension would have been more than a million dollars in 2008, and he estimates that now it would cost the city as much as $2.5 million.
Though the Hospital Commission has more than $1.7 million in its funds, that money is to be used explicitly for patient care.
"The Arkansas Attorney General's office says that commission money is not to be mingled with the General Fund. It can only be spent for the benefit of Eureka Springs citizens on a medical level," Merry said.
In addition to the considerable cost of extending a sewer line, Pate explained that water supply in the proposed location would also have to be evaluated.
"We don't yet know if the water out there would be sufficient [for the hospital]," he said.
Many citizens of Eureka Springs and surrounding areas have started to get antsy in anticipation of the new hospital. At the commission's meeting, Chuck Olson of Grassy Knob was present to relay such sentiments.
"Grassy Knob wants the hospital to succeed," he said. "It is time to move; it is time to get going."
He further stated that many people are not very happy with Eureka Springs Hospital, and thus fully support the idea of a new hospital. Many commissioners, however, took issue with casting the "old" hospital in a negative light.
"The care is good; it just is not a new facility," countered Commissioner Pam Crockett. Other commissioners also defended the merits of Eureka Springs Hospital.
"We need to sell that to the public, then," replied Olson. He suggested that Eureka Springs Hospital, as well as the hospital commission, do some public outreach in the hopes of boosting the hospital's image .
Vicki Andert, ESH's chief nursing officer, explained that efforts in this area have already been initiated. In fact, she said that the hospital recently hired someone to help with marketing.