Sharp Foundation Restores Hope for County Hospital

February 15, 2005--Posted at 7:30 p.m.

CHEROKEE VILLAGE-- Sharp County's only hospital may have closed its doors, but they may soon reopen.

It has been nearly four months since the closure of the Eastern Ozark Regional Health System.

"It's been devastating for the community. A lot of the patients have really been confused about what to do and where to go when they should need help," Eastern Ozark staff Dr. George Jackson says.

The nearest hospital is at least an hour away, and residents in this retirement community are forced to make the long haul for medical assistance.

"We've had people hospitalized in Batesville, Salem, Mountain Home, Jonesboro, Pocahontas, essentially all over. Where as prior to our closing, they would have been able to come here," Dr. Jackson says.

The frustration has been relieved by the announcement of an accept of purchase by the current owners from the Sharp Foundation which is made up of political and business leaders.

The contracts have been signed and the sale will be final after a 90 day escrow period.

The first walk through of the hospital is complete.

Mayor Ray Maynard says,  "There were no showstoppers there. Everybody felt like it was possible to use the equipment and facilities there and reopen the hospital."

But the purchase could mean yet another temporary sacrifice for the community.

"We're looking at proposing a bond issue to purchase this hospital, and pay for it with a sales tax. I'd like the citizens to support us on that," Mayor Maynard says.

The mayor says the sales tax would include a sunset clause which means once the hospital is paid off, the tax would disappear.

Most say the sales tax will be well worth it to restore the safety and growth of the community.

"They see the hospital as sort of a focal point for the community. It is hard to attract retirees or new businesses to come into the community if we don't have a hospital," Dr. Jackson says.