Mercy Health Love County - News

Marietta Monitor Editor Assesses Hospital's First 50 Years

Posted on Wednesday, February 2nd, 2022


From his weekly "Only in Love County" column on Friday, January 28, 2022, Marietta Monitor co-publisher H. Willis Choate III, commented on the Marietta hospital's 50th anniversary. 

"This week's newspaper has a 32-page tabloid section commemorating the 50th anniversary of the local hospital. The content is well researched and well written. In short, it is a good read and a great reminder of the inception and development of one of our great community accomplishments. The hospital, originally named the Love County Health Center, has in one way or another touched the lives of almost all the county's residents over these 50 years. 

Obtaining the hospital for the county was the third of three major accomplishments that shaped the future of the county. The first was the opening of the cookie factory, Little Brownie Cookies, in the late 1950s. 

The second was the development of the pants factory, Marietta Sportswear. Both were important because they provided vitally needed jobs as the local economy transitioned from a farm/ranch base to more of what it is today. 

Of the three, the battle receiving approval and building of the hospital was the most difficult to win. It was a long-drawn-out process. A hospital for Love County was opposed by politically strong outside interests for selfish reasons. 

The three major accomplishments - cookie factory, pants factory and hospital - had one thing in common. The community leaders who were in the forefront of all three efforts were World War II veterans who didn't think any challenge was too great for them. They were men of character and integrity, who didn't care who got the credit, just wanted the community to prosper. 

In the infancy of the cookie factory, the owner ran out of money and couldn't pay his workers. After his problem became known, in less than a day local leaders put together enough cash to cover his short. No one missed a paycheck. 

Half of the cost of the original pants factory building was paid with donations from local people. The leaders in the effort were so confident in the community's ability to make things happen that they started construction with only half the money to finish the building. When it was finished, all the costs had been paid. 

Those two accomplishments set the tone for the effort to get the hospital and better medical care for Love County residents. The same core of tenacious leaders led the fight which resulted in what we have today. 

Ironically, the hospital almost failed within the first six months of its operation. A failure to get prompt Medicare reimbursement for services provided caused a major financial problem. Vendors weren't being paid and staff salaries were in jeopardy. Again, community leaders provided the money to pay the bills until the cash flow problem was solved. 

It is also true that since its inception the hospital has grown and prospered because of other strong competent leaders. While there are many people who deserve credit for what the hospital is today, at the top of my list are Dr. Vergil Smith, Dr. Tom O'Connor and Administrator Richard Barker. All of them in their own way have been vitally important difference makers. 

Hopefully, you will read the 50th anniversary section and be thankful for what we have today. We are the envy of many small towns/counties because of the quality of our health care facility and the professionals who staff it. I regret that those early leaders who are no longer with us can't see the fruits of their labor as it is today."