Bob Pugh has spent much of his life making sure rural communities like the one he grew up in have health care. His next task: reopening Gulf Pines in Port St. Joe. He stepped towards that goal on Wednesday, paying the hospital’s outstanding water, sewer and garbage bills.
Frank Pate, Port St. Joe Mayor, says, “It means a great deal and show of good faith in him and his company. They want to pay the debt and get it current.”
Bob Pugh of Pugh International says, “I know what healthcare means to have where you have to drive a great distance. It can mean the difference between life and death.”
Gulf Pines is now waiting for approval from the state before they can re-staff, re-equip, and reopen, but the county ultimately sees Gulf Pines as a short-term solution.
Beginning on Friday, the St. Joseph Care Clinic in Port St. Joe will be extending their hours and opening for the first time on Saturdays. Last week commissioners reached a preliminary agreement to open a Sacred Heart hospital in 2007 and add a half cent sales tax to help pay for it, though a deal is yet to be finalized.
It’s unclear whether a county with currently no hospitals can support two, but don't tell Bob Pugh and Gulf Pines they're wasting their time.
Bob says, “You're looking two, two and a half years away for any healthcare to come in here, and during that time if we could save one life, it'll be worth it.”
Hugh says if the state gives Gulf Pines approval to treat patients, it will take at least three to four weeks to reopen.