By Tia Lynn Ivey
At long last, construction is beginning on the new $35 million hospital building for Morgan Memorial Hospital (MMH). On Tuesday, Sept. 19, hospital officials, elected officials, state officials and community leaders gathered at the site on Lions Club Road in Madison, to commemorate the event with a groundbreaking ceremony.
“It’s a great day in Morgan County as we come together,” said Ralph Castillo, CEO of MMH. Castillo thanked the hospital authority, auxillary, hospital employees, medical staff, and all the governmental and elected officials who made the new hospital possible. “We could not have done this without you,” said Castillo.
Castillo expressly praised Morgan County Commissioner Chairman Donald Harris for his unwavering support for the replacement hospital project.
“I remember when he said, ‘when you serve people you have to deny yourself and that’s what I am going to do. I am going to deny myself and do what is best for Morgan County,” recounted Castillo of Harris’ public support.
Commissioner Harris led the audience in prayer, asking for God’s blessing and protection on the new hospital and Morgan County in general.
Jack Stanek, acting state director for the USDA, praised MMH for the diligence and patience throughout the long process of funding approval.
“It’s a huge day for the City of Madison and Morgan County,” said Stanek. “We are part of the reason this thing took so long, we are the federal government after all,” joked Stanek. “It’s not an easy decision to take on this much debt…but the board of directors at the hospital had a vision and the fortitude to see this through…to see the benefits in a new hospital, not just for the City of Madison and Morgan County, but for the entire region.”
Earl Rogers, president of the GHA, noted how a new state-of-the-art hospital would enhance Morgan County’s appeal to businesses and developers.
“A modern hospital is part of the infrastructure that businesses consider when deciding on where to locate,” said Rogers. “Show me a community with no access or even difficult access to healthcare…and I will show you a community that is dying.”
Dr. Dan Zant, the MMH chief of staff, was excited for the future of healthcare in Morgan County. “The dream is finally becoming a reality,” said Zant. Countless hours have been spent making sure this facility will be one we can all be proud of.”
Sarah Burbach, chairwoman of the MMH Foundation, announced that $2.1 million dollars has been raised thus far on behalf of the hospital.
Castillo praised former chairman of the Morgan Memorial Hospital Authority (MMHA) Terry Evans for his 13 years of service on the MMHA. Castillo lamented that Evans was forced to step down as part of a settlement deal with Intervener John Anton.
“Terry helped steer this hospital through some tough times to get us where we are today,” said Castillo. “He did not deserve the fate he received at the hands of the intervener, but he accepted it with honor.”
Evans thank all who were involved in the new hospital project and announced the identity of the anonymous donor who initiated the $1 million match grant for MMH. Evans identified the Conrads family, specifically thanking Mike Conrads and Linda Conrads for their generous contributions to the hospital. Evans also thanked Pat and Natalie Reams for donating the land on which the hospital is to be built.
“We could not have done this without all of your generosity,” said Evans.