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Board president pleased with direction of hospital's expansion/renovation projectPosted Monday, February 6, 2012, at 11:59 AM
One of the most pleased people at last Wednesday's announcement of a $6.5 million expansion/renovation at Greene County General Hospital in Linton was its Board of Trustees president, Ralph Hiatt.
For the past 24 years the rural Lyons resident has served on the hospital board -- the last 10 years as president.
Hiatt, along with the rest of the board members -- Jim Oliphant, Susie Slinkard, Dr. Tom Bailey M.D., Rae Della Cravens, Rick Graves, Kermit Holtsclaw, Harry Huber, Steve Lindsey, Barbara Rollison and John Rowe -- have helped to guide the growth and continued prosperity of the hospital over nearly the last quarter of a century.
Wednesday's announcement was the first major expansion/renovation at the hospital since 1974 when the medical facility moved from near downtown Linton -- where the Wendy's restaurant now stands -- to its current location just off of Lone Tree Road on the far east side of Linton.
In his familiar deep voice, Hiatt called the project that will expand the hospital's emergency services department from three to eight exam rooms and gives the pharmacy, physical therapy, radiology and lab departments some much needed additional space, an exciting one for the Greene County community.
The emergency room expansion work will be centered on the east side of the hospital with an approximate 8,000 square feet addition.
There will be separate ER canopy covered entrances for patients and for ambulance vehicle drop-off.
The main front entry to the hospital will also get a canopy cover for drop-offs.
"I think it's going to be great for Greene County," Hiatt said. "We started in on this in the very preliminary stages about four years ago, but two years ago in a board retreat we really got serious. It's just snowballed from there. (Hospital administrator) Jonas (Uland) got together these men (architects/engineers) to help give us some information. We've got the finances all in a row."
Hiatt said the county-owned hospital has a very unusual arrangement when it comes to finances.
"It's county-owned but the taxpayers pay no money, absolutely none," he said.
Hiatt says new federal healthcare regulations, rules and polices associated with the so-called "Obamacare" is putting new strains on small hospitals like Greene County General.
"It's seem like every time we turn around the feds change the rules and boy that makes it tough," Hiatt commented. "They change it constantly. I know the federal government and the state government are all hard up. They have to try and do what they have to do and we just have to kind of work around it."
The critical access designated hospital with 25 beds has an annual budget of about $35 million.
Hiatt's main business interest by day is Hicom Inc., which he founded in 1990. Hiatt has been in the telecommunications industry for over 30 years. After retiring from the Bell phone system in 1989, Ralph decided to put his expertise to use by starting his own business. Hicom Inc. provides basic telephone systems, structured cabling systems, fiber optic sales and installation, as well as fully integrated voice over IP networks.
The Lyons resident has a passion for what the hospital does every day.
He said many people probably don't appreciate the importance of having a hospital in the community. With a monthly payroll of about $1 million and 272 employees, Hiatt says the hospital is a "big deal."
Hiatt knows first hand what the hospital can do.
"I remember living in the little town of Lyons and I had a heart attack a few years ago. If I would have had to go to Bloomington or Terre Haute I wouldn't be here. I came right over here (to Linton) and boy I was wheeled in and boy they took really good care of me," Hiatt said.
Hiatt said that experience gave him a sincere appreciation for what the hospital means to the community with its trained medical staff and employees who are working every day to save lives.
A satisfied Hiatt says he's pleased with the direction of the small hospital as it continues to change to meet the evolving needs of the Greene County community as evidenced by the board's willingness to make a large capital expenditure to keep up with the times.
Looking ahead, Hiatt says it might be getting close to the time for him to step down from the board. But not yet.
"I'm beginning to think maybe it's time to get some younger blood in here (on the board). I would like to see this project through," he said with a smile.
Nick is the assistant editor for the Greene County Daily World. He can be contacted by telephone at 847-4487 or by email at email@example.com .
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