Nearly a year ago, the Hot Spring County Medical Center approached the Quorum Court asking them to continue the current 1/2 cent sales tax, which will sunset on Dec. 31.
After the bill was passed, the hospital asked for the bill be set for a longer time period. They also went before the Quorum Court asking for its approval of the hospital entering into a partnership with Baptist Health.
Hot Spring County Medical Center cited several reasons for the partnership. The main being upcoming medical cost cuts.
The tax continuation for 20 years was approved by voters in August.
After being approved a sub-lease agreement between Hot Spring County Medical Center and Baptist Health was executed and presented to the Quorum Court. Once the sub-lease was approved by the justices, it went before them as a bill.
In September, the bill was presented to the Quorum Court for its first reading. A bill of this nature must be read three times before being voted into law. A suspension of the rules was not allowed that evening, which would have allowed the bill to have been voted into law.
The bill was read for its second reading in October.
Last night, the bill was passed by a 7-3 vote (Justices Brian Coston, James Cranford, Kelly Hodges, David Smith, Harold Thornton, Stephanie Yarboro and Brenda Weldon voted yes to the bill; while justices Josh Anderson, Don Hilyard and Dennis Massey voted no to the bill)
During the discussion of the bill, Justices Don Hilyard told other justices that he did not like the wording in the sub-lease and he felt that the county should be dealing directly with Baptist. He also stated that he was fearful that Hot Spring County would loose its representation now that the advisory board limitation had been expanded to 40 miles.
County Attorney Ralph Ohm told the Hilyard and other justices that those were really not legal issues. “Both are more policy issues,” said Ohm.
Now that the bill has passed, the signature of the chairman of the Hot Spring Medical Center Board of Directors and Baptist Health CEO Russ Harrington will be needed on the sub-lease agreement. The sub-lease and partnership is set to take place on Jan. 1, 2014.
“This is a very positive development for the Hot Spring County residents. It ensures quality healthcare for the next 57 years (remaining time left on the Hot Spring County Medical Center building lease from the county),” said Hot Spring County Medical Center legal counsel Linda Johnson. “Baptist has always been the first choice, glad the quorum court chose Baptist.”