• 61°

Sunday, Nov. 11, 2001

By Staff
Rankin County's school bond issue: A lesson learned
To the Editor:
Rankin county residents just passed a bond issue to build new high schools in Brandon and Richland, and also a science building and a multi-purpose building for another area school. The vote passed with 80.9 percent approval.
Brandon businessman Noel Daniels spearheaded a committee in support of the bond issue. After the vote he said, "This shows that Rankin County is for education." Lauderdale County must be against education. Now Brandon, a community that is rapidly expanding, passes a bond issue along with Tupelo, another fast-growing community.
And then there is Meridian,whose residents refuse to build new schools or even repair existing ones.
With bond issues passing in communities like Brandon and Tupelo, I think it is obvious that a community's growth and the quality of its schools are directly related.
Michael VanVeckhoven
Meridian
Riley Hospital pledges continued high quality care
To the Editor:
Since 1938, the employees and medical staff of Riley Hospital have dedicated themselves to providing outstanding care for the sick and suffering, and to being good citizens, enriching the quality of life in our community in many ways.
With the purchase of the hospital in 1998 by Health Management Associates Inc. (HMA), the new owners made a commitment to continue delivering high-quality healthcare services and to serving in key roles of the area's economic and social framework. Since 1998, there has been over $11 million in capital improvements made to the equipment and physical plant.
The hospital management, its employees and medical staff have continued to uphold the Riley standards of care and commitment, and in fact, have added to the scope of service to the community by contributing significantly to city and county tax collections.
In the past year, Riley Hospital's annual payroll contributed $16 million to the local economy, and the hospital paid taxes totaling $1 million to the city of Meridian and Lauderdale County. Additionally, the hospital provided $4 million in indigent medical
care and $3.5 million in uncompensated care to the people of our area.
Charitable donations resulting from the generosity of our employees and corporate contributions have totaled $70,000 in the past year. These contributions have benefited many local agencies, including the area chapters of American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, the March of Dimes, the United Way, as well as the Meridian Symphony and the Wesley House. Most recently, Riley Hospital participated in a statewide HMA Physician Appreciation Golf Tournament, which raised over $11,000 for Hope Village for Children in Meridian.
The sale of the hospital in 1998 resulted in the establishment of the Riley Foundation. Thanks to the generosity of the foundation's leadership, and the Riley Foundation's dedication to improving the quality of life in Meridian, many educational, civic and charitable organizations are now the recipients of grant monies that originated in the sale of the hospital.
In recent weeks, all of these positive factors and many others associated with the ongoing operation of Riley Hospital seem to have been overshadowed and overlooked as the community has learned of, and responded to the staff reductions at our hospital.
Hospitals must make adjustments to compensate for volume reductions just as other industries do.
From 1999 to 2000, hospital in-patient admissions in the Meridian market declined by 15 percent. That trend has continued through 2001, as the Meridian area mirrors the rest of the country, which has seen a decline in inpatient admissions as patients and payors seek outpatient services and other alternatives to traditional inpatient care. The staff reductions in recent weeks at Riley were made with great consternation and consideration for all involved. Every effort was made to reduce personnel by eliminating those positions which least affected direct patient care.
Keeping high-quality caregivers at the bedside of our patients to carry on the Riley tradition of skilled, compassionate care is our No. 1 priority. We will continue to keep our focus on providing a high level of personalized patient care, and further develop our centers of excellence in the areas of Women's Services; the Inpatient Rehabilitation Center (East Mississippi's only certified facility of this nature); the Outpatient Surgery Center; the Endoscopic Center; and the Meridian Breast Imaging Clinic. We eagerly anticipate the opening of our newly renovated Emergency Room in January 2002.
We remain committed to caring for our patients and this community, and consider it a privilege to do so.
Steve Nichols, CEO
Riley Hospital
Marion taxpayers under assault
To the Editor:
Once again, taxpayers are under assault from out-of-touch government officials. We are referring to the upcoming court case between the Town of Marion vs. just about everybody else.
It is an annexation battle, featuring a small town that is in financial difficulties, that is trying to solve its problems by obtaining its funds from those who are not served by the town, do not want to be served by the town, and in fact want no part in the town. These people were never asked their opinion. In fact, most of the decisions by Marion to pay for studies and maps and to proceed with annexation, were made not in public hearings but either by one individual or in secret meetings.
The town has already spent more than $50,000 of money they can't spare and is expected to spend possibly that much again in the upcoming court battle. Then there is also the expense that they have put others through, such as the city of Meridian, the Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors, the industrial park, as well as the private citizens and churches that have had to hire lawyers to protect their interests.
Unfortunately, the town of Marion had to borrow their money from their Water Department fund, which by law has to be re-paid. At this writing, they have yet to repay the first dime, nor is it in their upcoming year's budget to pay any back.
It should be noted that the only reason their Water Fund has money "to spare" is this is the fund that charges its own residents over $2.77 per thousand gallons for sewer treatment, after it only pays $0.67 to the city of Meridian (and this money-making venture may come to an end as the town is also in court battles with Meridian, with Meridian justifiably wanting to charge Marion what it charges its own residents. If Meridian is successful, Marion has stated they will have to triple their rate and charge $6.00 per thousand gallons, six times the regional average).
For once, governmental bodies need to put their own egos aside and run city hall as if it's the people's business, not their own toy. And run it as a business. Citizens need to speak up by calling their aldermen, mayor or attending monthly meetings and let their opinions be heard.
The next meeting is Tuesday at 6 p.m.
Milton Jenkins
and The Concerned Citizens of Northeast
Lauderdale, Marion

x