Jackson Hospital Controversy

The controversy over a proposed half-cent sales tax hike to build a new Jackson Hospital in Marianna, Florida, continues to brew.

With only one week left to vote on the tax, some residents are concerned about what will happen to the current hospital regardless of the outcome.

Duane Herring: "Our volume has gone up about 20% in the last year, and very commonly we have two to three hour waits," said Dr. Duane Herring.

That's just one of the reasons for why officials at Jackson Hospital in Marianna, FL say a new hospital is needed.

A hospital would only be built with revenue from a half-penny sales tax increase.

CEO of Jackson Hospital Dave Hample says, "We have a lot of folks right now that leave the county for healthcare for a lot of reasons. But there are a lot of them that leave because there are no specialists available here in Jackson County to treat them."

Under Florida law, county commissions have the authority to levy an additional half-cent sales tax for the purpose of building a new hospital, but only if the members of that commission are convinced that the existing hospital is at risk of closing down.

"The language says would likely cease to exist; "likely"' please underscore the word likely, not for sure," said Hample

Hospital officials admit that there is no time frame for if or when the current Jackson Hopsital may close.

Despite the fact that both hospital officials and a hired consultant say that the facility is deteriorating and has no room for growth, those opposed to the tax say the 28 year-old hospital is structurally sound..

They also say that Jackson County residents are in no condition to have another tax demanded of them.

Charlie Brown opposes sales tax hike says, "We have a very low income population in Jackson County and a lot of these people don't need another half-cent sales tax."

The stage has been set for what is bound to be a highly contested vote.

On the one hand you have those that say a new hospital would mean improved healthcare, and on the other hand you have those that say a new 57-million dollar hospital would be a waste of taxpayer money.

Whether the tax is passed is now up to the voters of Jackson County.

As of now, about 7,000 of the more than 27,000 ballots that were mailed out to voters have been collected.

In order for a vote to count, it must be marked and in the Jackson County supervisor of elections office by 7 p.m. next Tuesday, August 7th.

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