Now that a new prison has been built, the 19,300 residents of Taylor County in Florida's Panhandle decided that a new hospital should be next.
Voters there recently passed a referendum to levy a 1 cent county sales tax to build a $21 million replacement hospital for 48-bed Doctor's Memorial Hospital in Perry, Fla.
Doctor's Memorial is a county facility built in 1957.
The new tax goes into effect Jan. 1 and is expected to raise $21 million over its 30-year life.
It replaces a similar tax that has been in effect since 1989 and was used to build the $5.5 million, 80-cell Taylor County Jail. The state department of corrections ordered the county to build the new jail, which opened in 1992.
Driving the need for a new hospital was the lack of obstetrics care in the county. The closest hospital offering obstetric services is located more than 60 miles away.
"That means we have a lot of babies born in ambulances or in the emergency room of (614-bed) Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare," said Julie Thompson, a spokeswoman for Doctor's Memorial. "That's an awful way to have a baby."
The new hospital, which also will have 48 beds, will feature an obstetrics unit and a nursery, and an expanded emergency department with an emergency chest pain center. It will offer vascular diagnostic and treatment services, nuclear medicine and, for the first time, kidney dialysis treatment.
The hospital, which now employs 300, plans to add another 100 employees when the new facility is completed in 2002.