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Legislation in process to assist in reopening hospital

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By The Staff

The hospital in Gadsden County needs money to reopen, and two area legislators are trying to give the hospital more time to raise money.

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“I have a bill to give them an extension for another year to get the hospital open,” said Sen. Al Lawson, D-Quincy.

Lawson filed SB 1926 which, if passed, would allow “a health care provider to extend the inactive period beyond 12 months and renew the inactive designation under certain circumstances.”

Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee, filed a similar bill (HB 0873) in the House.

“They had until June or July in order to have the hospital under full operation, but I do not think they can make it, so they need an extension,” Lawson said.

Lawson added that the state will probably grant the county more time. But to be sure, he sponsored SB 1936 to provide an extension of time for the county to prepare and reopen the hospital.

Since Jan. 1, Gadsden County has collected a half-cent sales tax to pay for the reopening of the hospital, Lawson said.

“People are going to tax themselves in Gadsden County to try to have a hospital,” he said.

Childers Construction is currently working on the renovations, for a price tag of $9.75 million.

"The amount of money collected thus far from the half-cent tax will not be known until the end of March," said Connie McLendon, Gadsden County finance director.

Over the next 30 years, the tax is expected to raise $45 million.

When the hospital reopens, it will start off small – five or six beds and it will eventually have a capacity of 25 beds, said Lawson and Brian Beasley, county director of Emergency Medical Services.

Once the hospital is open, residents will no longer have to be transported 45 minutes to Tallahassee for medical treatment – unless their condition requires more advanced care, Beasley said.

“There are always going to be patients that need to go to TMH (Tallahassee Memorial Hospital) because of the cardiac unit there,” he added.

Currently, an outpatient emergency center operates out of the Gadsden Community Hospital building. The emergency center was opened with the assistance of TMH.

The hospital was closed in 2005 by the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration for operating under substandard conditions.