The struggling Calhoun – Liberty Hospital is slated to receive a million dollars to expand its emergency room, after dodging the Governor's veto pen. The funding could help the small facility recover from financial troubles and public scrutiny.
The rural North Florida hospital doubled as a bomb shelter when it was first built in 1960, and it still looks the part. The examining rooms and nurses’ station are lined with rows of ceramic mint-green tile. The facility struggled to stay open for decades, even before a 2015 incident sent it reeling. A patient was forcefully discharged despite complaints of shortness of breath, and died in police custody. Esther Stoltzfus was hired on to manage the E.R. after the incident.
“In the year and a half that I’ve been here, we’ve gotten very busy in the E.R. We average about 1,000 patients a month. Our little E.R. is eight beds,” she said.
Stoltzfus says the E.R. is seeing an uptick in patients since new management took over. The million dollar expansion will help the unit keep pace.
“This community would be in a really bad place if there was not this hospital. But it’s up to people like our team that we have now to make sure that…we can be small, but we don’t have to be sorry,” Stoltzfus said.
While the hospital invests in telemedicine machines and other new technology, it’s had few renovations since its construction in 1960.