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Healthcare Gets Back to Gadsden

By Lynn Hatter

Tallahassee, FL – In 2005, the state Agency for Healthcare Administration (AHCA) shut down Gadsden County's hospital due to financial mismanagement and health code violations. Five years later, with a brand new look and about $10-million in renovations, the hospital is open for business again.

After its closing five years ago, the Gadsden County Hospital stood empty. Bug carcasses littered the floor and yellowed ceiling tiles with water stains greeted upturned eyes. Old personnel files in heavy-duty binders served as doorstops, but not anymore.

On Tuesday, county officials held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new hospital, now under the management of Capital Regional Medical Center. It will start off with nine beds as an emergency room facility, but Capital Regional CEO Bud Wethington says there is still room to grow. Dr. Carlo Oller, who will oversee the building's medical staff, says there are plans to branch out.

"There are plans to have physician offices in the facility. There's an OB-GYN, family practitioners considering opening for outpatient visits in the facility. The formal opening June 14th is for the emergency department, and the other things are going to happen later on."

It took five years, two different boards of county commissioners, licensing deadlines and delays, and accusations of financial mismanagement to get this facility up and running. Gadsden Commissioner Gene Morgan says it took a lot of patience and perseverance to get it going, and this time it's going to stay that way.

"This could have been opened earlier. They were screened for twenty-five beds on a hospital that's averaged two beds every single time it has been opened. In recent years it's failed three times because it wasn't done the right way, and I am so encouraged that we have been able to overcome all those obstacles and make it work."

But while most everyone agrees that having a medical facility is a boost for a county where residents have to commute thirty miles or more to Tallahassee for healthcare, others, like Gadsden NAACP President Sam Palmer, say an emergency room alone isn't enough.

"Our half cent tax was for a hospital. Now I am pleased we made the first step, because sometimes you have to make that first step to get what you want. But I am not pleased with the way it's gone also."

The facility will feature triage, radiology and a pharmacy. Its first official day of business will start Monday morning.