Southwestern Oklahoma community working to save debt-burdened hospital

Monday, February 14th 2005, 5:30 am
By: News On 6

MANGUM, Okla. (AP) Fund-raising dinners, auctions and donation drives are just some of the ways citizens in this small southwestern community are trying to help keep the Mangum City Hospital from closing.

The hospital faces a $400,000 debt and could close if the debt doesn't get paid off.

Hospital administrator Michael Ulm said he can't pinpoint when the hospital began to go into debt and he's not sure who, if anyone, is responsible for it. Ulm took over as hospital administrator on Jan. 3.

``The only difference now is that I'm hoping to present this to the public in Greer County and get some community support behind us,'' Ulm said.

Ulm said that there is now a community effort going on to raise money for the hospital to help with the debt. Hospital staff are also looking for ways to cut costs.

The hospital already operates without a staff physician, calling in local doctors only when they are needed.

If the hospital would shut down, it would have a $2.9 million impact on this small community in far southwestern Oklahoma, according to the Oklahoma Office of Rural Health Policy and Research Center.

This includes the 76 hospital jobs which pay $2.3 million and another $545,200 for jobs outside the hospital.

The hospital faces a state health inspection later this week. Ulm said that they are now considering this inspection a ``dry-run'' to inspect their records and make sure everything is in order.

After the inspection, the hospital will know if it will be designated as a critical access hospital, which could mean an increase in state funding.

Ulm said cost-cutting measures are being considered. If the hospital ended its contract laundry service and did the hospital laundry onsite nearly $30,000 a year could be saved.

Two local women have offered to donate one day a week to do laundry when washers and dryers are purchased, Ulm said.

``Since they can't donate money, they decided to donate their time, that's wonderful,'' said Ulm. ``I challenge people to donate their change. It will help change happen at Mangum City Hospital.''

Two individuals have made sizable donations to help save the hospital including one for $30,000 and another for $10,000, and another person has pledged another $5,000.

Community members have also collected change, held auctions and fund-raising dinners.

``It's going to take the entire community to support the hospital and continue to support it in the future,'' said Dr. Ben Locklear, who paid $1,000 for a handmade cross at a hospital fund-raising auction. ``Every little penny counts, regardless of how little the amount is.''