by Karen Sherrell
Sharp County voters have a lot to think about.
A special election will be held on March 11 to determine a 1.5% sales tax increase countywide to provide for the operation and maintenance of a new county hospital.
Sharp County Quorum Court justices voted on ordinances pertaining to the building of the hospital, and issuance of bonds to finance the hospital in November of 2013. The ordinances will take effect if the sales tax is approved by voters.
Members of the Sharp County Hospital Foundation have been actively meeting with area hospitals since their formation approximately five years ago, with the closing of the hospital in Sharp County in 2004. According to Jonathan Rhodes, the foundation has spoken to White River Medical Center, UAMS, Baxter Regional Medical Center, NEA, and St. Bernard’s Healthcare.
If voter approved, the 40,000 square foot, 19-bed facility would be county-owned but not county-managed. St. Bernard’s Healthcare has expressed their interest in equipping, staffing and managing the proposed hospital, and attended the November Quorum Court meeting. The hospital would be a two-story facility, with a fully equipped emergency room, open 24/7, have a state of the art imaging center, laboratory, pharmacy, administration and food service.
White River Medical Center also attended the November meeting and told the court and audience members of their plan for a satellite emergency room at their Urgent Care Clinic on the four-lane at Cherokee Village. “We are converting to a trauma room with a CT scanner and will be open 24-7 with trained emergency room physicians,” stated Sheila Mace, WRHS Public Relations Coordinator. The clinic has received verbal approval by the Arkansas Department of Health and Mace stated the satellite ER project will proceed regardless of the outcome of the special election. The Urgent Care Clinic volume has grown, according to Mace. “We have added services as they could be sustained,” she said.
Sharp County will be reimbursed for the cost of the special election, between $20,000 to $25,000, by the Sharp County Hospital Foundation.
Voters will decide on a one percent sales tax to provide for the operation and maintenance of a new county hospital with various departments and facilities, including emergency medicine, radiology, physical therapy, acute care and rehab. Voters will also decide on a half percent sales tax to pay on the bond issuance for the construction of the hospital.
Opponents of the proposed new hospital say the new tax rate will be among the highest in the state. Local cities within the county currently have sales taxes ranging from 7.50% to 9%.
Proponents state the county has been without a hospital for ten years, and one is needed in the county, for the citizens and for future generations to come. They feel a good health care system is an integral part of community growth and stability.
Voters will decide on Tuesday, March 11.
Residents of Sharp County wishing to vote in the special election, that are not registered to vote, need to do so by February 13. Early voting begins March 4 at the Sharp County Courthouse, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Sharp County Citizens for Responsible
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Citizens for a County-Owned Hospital can be found at

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