OUR VIEW: Not renewing 4 mill hospital tax would be a major mistake

Published 7:49 pm Tuesday, July 19, 2022

When voters in Chambers County take to the polls this November, they will not only re-elect a new sheriff but also decide whether to continue the 4 mill hospital tax that is set to expire on Sept. 30, 2023. The first vote for this tax took place on May 7, 2013, and was put into effect on Oct. 1, 2013.

Shortly after, East Alabama merged with George H. Lanier Memorial Hospital to become what is now known as EAMC-Lanier in Valley. Many throughout the county have expressed concerns that the tax was implemented to entice another hospital group to take over Lanier. EAMC-Lanier Administrator Greg Nichols said that as he understood, the tax was placed on the ballot because at the time it was thought that George H. Lanier could survive with this tax. He did say having the tax was favorable to EAMC.

“My understanding and I believe this to be correct, is that the board of [George H.] Lanier at that time implemented that tax and saw that if this passed that would enable them hopefully to stay open.” 

He said once the tax went into effect, the board at Lanier started looking at the amount of revenue generated each year versus what the needs were, and the losses made it impossible to remain open. As an obligation to the community that voted for the tax, the board did whatever it deemed necessary to keep the hospital open.

Fast forward ten years, not much has changed in that rural hospitals such as Lanier are struggling. Many have closed around the country, limiting the healthcare options for those of us who don’t live in a metropolitan area. 

Many in the community scoff at the services provided by the hospital in Valley, but think about this for a moment: Where would this community be if Lanier was not here during COVID?

Sure, many were sent to Opelika for care after testing positive and requiring hospitalization, but the fact that there were at least 16 beds available for those locally is better than most small communities in Alabama and across the United States. We’re guessing a lot of people in communities where rural hospitals have shuttered would love to have a local hospital like Lanier in their neighborhood. 

On Nov.  8, the choice is ultimately up to voters, but we think it would be a major mistake to vote against the tax, which could put EAMC-Lanier’s future in jeopardy. 

With that said, no matter what side of this tax you fall on, get out and vote. Do not let 1,000 people decide for the other 24,000 registered voters in the county.