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Attorneys for both the hospital and McCurtain County begin reviewing language for a potential November ballot to fund remodel of existing hospital

IDABEL, OK - McCurtain Memorial Hospital president and CEO, Brian Whitfield, began holding talks with the hospitals legal counsel the first week in July to explore ballot language for a potential November 2024 measure that would pave the way to a complete removed of the existing hospitals 115,000 square foot campus in Idabel. Whitfield presented the measure to the McCurtain County Board of County Commissioners in a June meeting this year and all three Commissioners were supportive.

The measure would allow voters to decide whether or not to redistribute a portion of the currently collected lodging tax to fund the rehabilitation of the hospital. Attorneys for the hospital at the Law Firm of Crowe & Dunlevy, working with the county's counsel at Floyd & Driver, PLLC, are "running the numbers" to determine the amount of dollars such a redistribution would take to fund the project.

The hospital presented a ballot question to voters in the fall of 2022 when then, the question was whether or not to allow a new lodging tax to build a new hospital. Voters in the county approved the two-percent increase to the existing 3% lodging tax by over 65-percent in every precinct of McCurtain County. Two months later, litigation was filed that would challenge the vote based on a technicality wherein the County Commissioners failed to ensure that the ballot language was published in a local newspaper for at least four consecutive weeks.

With this new measure, Whitfield asked the County Commissioners to support a redistribution of the existing 3-percent lodging tax. At the June 2024 meeting, Whitfield told commissioners that he had found an alternate way by which the hospital could be rehabilitated at its current location.

"With the installation of French drains and the construction of a utility hub station behind the hospital," Whitfield said, "we can alleviate the drainage issues we currently face, get the moisture from beneath the foundation of the hospital, and run all new infrastructure, such as plumbing, electrical and med-gasses, into the hospital one phase at a time as we remode." Whitfield went on to say that the existing utilities would be capped or removed instead of repaired.

In his presentation, Whitfield proposed moving the hospitals existing nursing and patient care areas (currently housed on the second floor of the hospital, to the third floor. Whitfield said that this plan would allow construction to begin on the third floor of the hospital with a complete remodel and all-new floor plan for patient care. The plan would allow for 25 beds to include acute inpatient, swing bed, and four new Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds). The new plans would also call for a brand-new surgery center for Dr. Michael Brown's general surgery program and potentially open negotiations for a Cardiac Cath Lab at MMH.

The second floor, currently housing the nursing units, would become Administration and clinic space. Whitfield plan to move its Idabel Rural Health Clinic, currently housed adjacent to the hospital, to the second floor of the hospital. This, he said, would allow for overhead costs of operating the separate location to be eliminated and allow better convenience for patients. With the clinic on the second floor, Whitfield said, patients would be able to simply go down stairs for their lab test and radiology exams.

On the first floor, Whitfield proposes adding a fast-track clinic where the hospitals Business Services is currently housed in an effort to reduce non-emergent visits to the hospitals Emergency Room, relocate the hospitals Gift Shop, input a Chapel for grieving families to visit, and add a drive-thru and Pharmacy to the west side of the hospital. The exterior of the hospital would receive a facelift, too, including a modern paint scheme, adding signage and repaving and extending the parking areas.

The complete renovation of the hospital is estimated at $28 million. Ballot language and exact reallocation of existing taxes is being finalized by attorneys working on the project. The County Commissioners have only until the third week of August to pass a resolution that would pave the way for the voters to cast their support at Novembers general election.

Residents can continue to follow the MMH blog and social media for the latest updates.

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