Holmes County hospital thrives two years after half-cent surtax passes

A small hospital is growing at a rate some say they never though possible.
Published: Nov. 30, 2022 at 9:15 PM CST
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BONIFAY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - The Doctors Memorial Hospital in Holmes County is growing at a rate some said they never thought was possible, all thanks to the half-cent surtax.

The tax went into effect just under two years ago. While it’s an insignificant number to most, spending half a penny more for every dollar, it has made all the difference for the small hospital.

For long-time patient Christine Cassidy, Doctors Memorial is her first choice of care in a medical emergency.

“I don’t go to no other hospital except Bonifay,” Cassidy said. “It’s helped me when I thought I was having a heart attack and stuff.”

In order to build the hospital back in 2008, Chief Executive Officer Dr. Huy Nguyen said they had to take out a $16 million bond debt.

As a public hospital, they don’t turn anyone away, even if the patient can’t afford care. Adding to that, as a rural hospital, it struggled to keep its doors open.

That was until the half-cent sales tax was put into place in January 2021.

“That surtax has been a complete game changer,” Dr. Nguyen said. “The hospital overnight went from being a hospital that was always challenged with how do we keep the lights on to one that’s now in a rapid growth position.”

Dr. Nguyen said since then, they’ve grown 70% in terms of services.

“So this community now has cardiology access, ENT access, high-end robotic surgery. So I think the surtax it’s not only just about increasing our ed but across the board, we’ve been able to increase a wide range of new services,” Dr. Nguyen said. “We have a nuclear-med scanner, we have a 3d mammogram.”

Dr. Nguyen said there is still so much more he wants to do, such as having a no-wait emergency room.

“Why? Because the folks in this community support us and it’s incumbent on us to support them. And waiting in an ER is just worthless,” Dr. Nguyen said. “Our ED volume has gone up by 30% in the last several years.”

It’s that kind of service that keeps Cassidy from choosing to go anywhere else.

“I love this hospital and I love the doctors it comes to it,” Cassidy said.

With the surtax, the hospital continues to add new specialties and serves more people than ever before.

The surtax is only in place for six years. When it comes time to decide whether to propose an extension or not, Dr. Nguyen said he is going to leave it to the residents to decide if it is worth it or not.

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