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Our View: Hospital vote sends sobering message to both sides




The people have spoken. Now it's time to listen to what they said. 


Tuesday, voters in Oktibbeha County rejected a proposal that would have allowed county supervisors to OCH Regional Medical Center. With 58.5 percent of the 9,651 ballots cast, voters expressed a clear preference for maintaining county control over the hospital. 


Those who supported the sale of OCH, which included the majority of the county's board of supervisors, should respect the will of the people as it was expressed Tuesday. 


For the past years, there has been a persistent push from the supervisors to consider selling the hospital. In fact, only a grass-roots petition drive prevented the supervisors from pursuing the sale on their own. 


So Tuesday's election send an emphatic message to the supervisors, who spent more than $400,000 on plans to pursue a sale. Two hospital groups, Memphis-based Baptist Hospital and Tupelo-based North Mississippi Medical Group, made bids to purchase the hospital, pending the outcome of Tuesday's vote. Both are familiar, credible, well known hospitals with a track record for providing good healthcare. 


Given that, it's fair to say voters did not consider Tuesday's vote was not simple "better the devil you know than the devil you don't." This was not rejection of either bid, but a clear preference for OCH. 


It is our hope that those who advocated the sale of OCH will respect the outcome of the race and turn their attention to working with the hospital to improve healthcare for its patients. Any lingering temptation to revive those plans in the foreseeable future is harmful and, most likely, doomed to failure, given the margin of victory Tuesday. 


Likewise, those who supported keeping the hospital should temper their celebrations with the knowledge that four-in-10 voters believed healthcare in the county would be better served by a sale of the hospital. Any business that has a 40 percent unfavorable rating is wise to consider how it can improve its product, so Tuesday's vote should be received as a sobering message to hospital administrators. 


Voters may have said they want to keep local-ownership of the hospital, but it would be unwise to consider the election a vote for the status quo. 


It has been a long, hard-fought and often contentious battle. 


But the battle has ended. 


For both sides, now is the time to listen, to learn and work together toward a common goal. 


Anything less is an act of defiance that can only harm healthcare in Oktibbeha County.



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