A petition is making its way through Graham calling for the dissolution of the hospital district.
The petition was started on Tuesday in a public Facebook group because of the higher tax rate for the new year. This is not the first time a petition has been started for the hospital district with one failing in 2014. Residents are tired of the high taxes, but the alternative could be no hospital in the town.
The Graham Regional Medical Center has been facing an operating loss since the district was created and that is why the taxes were raised for the 2018-19 year.
“Revenue in expenses out, you have a number at the end and that is your operating gain or loss,” CEO of GRMC Shane Kernell said. “That’s the number we have been losing $5 million on every year since 2014, really 2013. Since fiscal year 2013 we have been losing operationally $5 million a year.”
While residents are not happy with the taxes, they are glad to have a hospital in town.
“I’m sure there is going to be a day of reckoning here in terms of an election as to whether or not we want to sustain the hospital here,” resident Carter Pettit said. “We certainly need an emergency room where we are located, there’s no question about that.”
Pettit said losing the hospital could have a negative effect on the town should that be the result of this petition.
“Not only drive hours but you are going to have a constant flow of lifecare helicopters in here,” Pettit said. “And when you talk about trying to bring in industry, business that will be the lifeblood of the community and you don’t have a hospital, that’s not much of a selling point.”
According to Kernell, if the district goes away, the hospital will too, and it is unlikely for a private operation to buy and take over the hospital.
“The notion that there is a white knight that is going to come in and buy us is a fantasy,” Kernell said. “Even if they did it would be some nefarious operation that is not here for the benefit of the community. Somebody could come in and buy it but in my experience, it’s usually not good and it usually shuts down a second time.”
Kernell said the hospital is trying to get the message about the hospital taxes out during this because if this goes to a vote it could be the end for a hospital in Graham.
Before dissolving the Graham Regional Medical Center can be put to a vote, the petition needs at least 1,338 signatures.