PIGGOTT, AR (KAIT) - A Region Eight community hospital is feeling the pinch of a hard economic year.
Now, the town of Piggott... Made famous for its literary connections to Ernest Hemingway...
Must decide "to have or to have not" a sales tax increase to help meet expenses.
The town took over the hospital operations in the 70s. Since then, the hospital has been virtually self-sufficient... By not asking for financial assistance.
The one thing that both Piggott Mayor Gerald Morris and hospital administrator James Magee want people to understand is that for now and in the foreseeable future the hospital will not close.
In fact Magee started off the interview with relating some high marks for patient care.
"We were tied for second among critical access hospitals of which there are 29 hospitals in the state."
Also the Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care has rated the hospital 6th overall out of 75 for care.
Magee says operationally they have done pretty well on their own since the doors opened.
"We're maybe one of only two in the state that do not have some kind of subsidized assistance either from the city or the county."
Magee says that even with low patient costs, with the amount of patient volume that the hospital sees. Coupled with their primary reimbursements from Medicare and Medicaid and a lack of industry driven insurance payers. Debt is mounting up.
Magee, "And I think we're seeing additional bad debt because of the economy."
Being 1.65 Million in debt from last year the hospital needs some help. The hospital board and the Mayor are asking the people of Piggott to vote for a 1cent sales tax.
Both Morris and Magee realize that a penny won't solve all the problems of the hospital but it's going to help.
Gerald Morris, the Mayor of Piggott says it won't pay everything. "It will only be a part of the overall cure."
Magee, "Obviously not a 100 percent problem solver."
The sales tax income is expected to bring in about 300 to 350 Thousand a year. Mayor Morris says that the city helping out shines a favorable light if other outside help is needed.
"When we go to ask for help. We can also say our people are helping us that's how important it is. "
Magee says that the hospital is squeezing every penny it can and still maintain the standards it is required to. Magee says he wishes there were some other way.
"We're proud of the fact that we haven't had to do that all these years when most other hospitals have already had to go that route."
Next Monday night at 5:30 at the Piggott community center the hospital board will hold a public hearing to explain it's position, what they are planning to do to control costs and get public input.
The mayor says if the council approves the sales tax ordinance it will make the may ballot with the tax beginning in October for a 3 year run.