Southern Regional Medical Center Chief Financial Officer Jay Hoffman, right, llistens as hospital President Jim Crissey explains why money for Southern Regional was included in the county’s proposed 2015 SPLOST list during a public forum March 18. (Staff Photo: Curt Yeomans)
JONESBORO — While the hospital was not the main topic of inquiries posed by residents during a SPLOST forum last week, it was the only non-economic development-related issue that provoked questions.
A couple of questions and comments came up about the plan to allocate $50 million from the proposed 2015 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax to help the hospital through bonds and the purchase of hospital property.
Riverdale resident Keith Parker asked if the hospital would provide additional services to the community if the SPLOST passes. Parker was a member of the citizens review committee that sorted through proposed projects before the hospital issue came to light.
Southern Regional President Jim Crissey said the hospital already has “state of the art” equipment that allows staff to get detailed views of a patient’s heart, perform MRIs, use a four-armed robot that can assist with colo-rectal and gynecological surgeries. He also said the hospital has two on-call neonatologists and has staff that can perform angioplasties.
“Southern Regional has as good equipment as any other hospital in south metro Atlanta,” said Crissey.
The hospital CEO said Southern Regional has the sixth largest emergency room in Georgia and it treats more than 80,000 patients per year. More than 3,000 babies are also born annually at Southern Regional, he said. Crissey added that Southern Regional has a certified stroke program and an accredited chest pain center.
Former Morrow Mayor Lou Hisel, who helped compile the 2003 SPLOST program for the county, voiced support for the hospital during the forum. Hisel said the hospital was worth supporting and chastised cities who did not give up portions of their SPLOST proceeds to help the hospital.
Of the seven cities in Clayton county, only Riverdale and Lovejoy agreed to give up some of their proceeds for the hospital.
But while Hisel said the hospital should be supported with some tax dollars, he said his only concerns lay with the short-term nature of a SPLOST. He called on county leaders to offer up a permanent tax dollar flow to help the hospital on a long-term basis.
“It’s a short-term, five-year solution equaling approximately 1-mill per year,” Hisel said. “I think it would behoove the county commission and the leaders of the county to look at dedicating 1-mill of county tax to the hospital for operations …
“Other counties that are similar to Clayton have dedicated money realizing that the hospital in this day and age, and on this side of town with the needs of the uninsured, will not make a profit without some help from the taxpayers,” Hisel added.
The next SPLOST forum will be held April 15 from 5:30 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. at the Board of Commissioners Building, 112 Smith St. in Jonesboro. The SPLOST referendum will be held as part of the May 20 primary election.