Ground Broken For Much Needed Medical Facility

March 1, 2006 – Posted at 5:29 p.m. CST

SHARP COUNTY, ARKANSAS -- A new medical facility is under construction in Sharp County. A little over a year ago the hospital in Cherokee Village closed, forcing many residents to drive long distances to get basic medical treatment.

Wednesday, ground was broken for the new facility and hopes are high in this retirement community. The new medical complex should be completed in 12 to 14 months and it's something residents hope will provide a valuable alternative to the hospital that the area couldn't support.

"The population demographics could not support a full blown hospital," said Gary Bebow, Administrator for White River Medical Center.

When Sharp County couldn't support the Eastern Ozarks Regional Health Services the hospital in Cherokee Village was forced to close.

"As you can understand being the mayor of a town that 50 percent of the population is retired healthcare, it is a really big issue here," said Mayor Ray Maynard, "This will fill almost all the needs of a short term hospital. The 27,000 square foot complex will fill an immediate and long term void that was left in the community when the Eastern Ozarks Regional Health Services closed over a year ago."

"It's not just for Cherokee Village, its going to save the healthcare needs of a great population base around here in the quad city area as well as parts of the county," said Bebow.

Since the closure Sharp County residents were still receiving primary care but were forced to drive roughly 45 minutes to the Salem Hospital or more than an hour to White River Medical Center in Batesville for common hospital treatment. White River Medical Center decided to back this new medical complex after local doctors showed a serious interest in the project.

"The commitment is a $6 million dollar project. They are behind us and they are trying to get this off. They borrowed the money and it's really the reason for them we are doing this project," said administrator Joe Walls.

A number of local doctors are putting up the money to build the complex and White River Medical Center will have a long term lease on it. It's a partnership that should solidify the local medical community.

"With this type of project there won't have to be worry of closure," said Bebow.

In addition to better medical treatment, the area should see an economic boost as the new medical center will bring 41 high paying jobs to the county.