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Sen. Hob Bryan

The future of Amory is at stake. It will be decided next month in a bankruptcy court in Nashville. Unless something happens, the outcome will be grim.

Our hospital is in bankruptcy, and it is being auctioned off. As it stands, North Mississippi Medical Center is set to purchase the hospital for $10.5 million. (A few years ago, the hospital sold for six times that amount.) If that bid is accepted, the medical community which is the pride of Amory, and which has helped us thrive for generations, will inexorably drift to Tupelo. There’s time to prevent this, but we must act immediately.

All of us are fortunate to live so close to a hospital the size of North Mississippi Medical Center. Most people from here go to Tupelo for services that can’t be provided in Amory. However, North Mississippi’s business plan is to provide medical services in Tupelo with only skeletal services at the hospitals they own in surrounding communities. They won’t try to locate as many specialists as they can in Amory. They won’t try to make the Amory hospital thrive. Instead, as time goes by, more and more services will move to Tupelo. The effect on our community will be devastating.

Dozens of doctors – who previously had no connection at all to Amory – have come here to practice medicine. They and their families are civic leaders. They belong to our churches and send their children to our schools. Think about the impact these doctors and their families have had on Amory and then try to imagine how different we would be today without them. Now imagine what the future will be like without this constant influx of doctors.

Think of all the nurses, trained medical specialists, and other members of our medical community. Now think of what Amory would be without them, and what our future will be with fewer and fewer of them here.

Think of what it means to have a thriving hospital here, and then think of what it means to have a hospital dramatically reduced in size.

There’s time to save our hospital, but we must act immediately. Some entity must appear in the bankruptcy court in Nashville and bid on our hospital. One possibility is to form a non-profit corporation, obtain financing, and obtain someone to actually operate the hospital. That’s a tall order, but some parts of it are already lined up.

It’s extremely likely that long-term financing can be obtained from the U. S. Agriculture Department’s Rural Development program, but there’s still the problem of interim financing. The Baptist hospital system is extremely interested in partnering with a community group and managing the hospital on a day-to-day basis, but the community group does not yet exist.

I’m sure there are other options. But time is very, very short.

The future of Amory depends on what happens to our hospital. We have lost control of our banks. Our local merchants have been supplanted by Walmart and on-line sellers. Our garment industry has evaporated. The railroad has a much smaller presence, and the Mississippian Railroad is now owned by Itawamba County. The hospital is about all we’ve got left.

Last week, a lawyer from a big law firm in Jackson told me that if Amory was a half hour from Tupelo, all we needed was an emergency room. I gently disagreed with him. OK, not so gently.

We don’t have to let this happen. I know our community wants save our hospital and our medical community. Let’s get to work.

Sen. Hob Bryan represents District 7 in the Mississippi Senate.

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