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Hospital looks back, and ahead
renfro signing 1
Author Betty Ford Renfro signs a copy of her book “History of Medicine in Effingham County, Georgia” for Lillie Bedford at Saturday’s event at Effingham County High School. - photo by Photo by Pat Donahue

As the Effingham Hospital marked its past Saturday afternoon, it did so with an eye toward its future.

The hospital is marking its 40-year anniversary and held a book signing Saturday afternoon at Effingham County High School for Betty Ford Renfro’s tome “History of Medicine in Effingham County, Georgia.”

Effingham Hospital CEO Norma Jean Morgan approached Renfro back in February about writing a book on the hospital’s first 40 years.

“I said, ‘sure,’” Renfro said. “I thought she was talking about a little pamphlet. I am just amazed at the number of people who have worked so hard for this book.”

The book, 169 pages long, chronicles how health care and medicine has grown from the earliest days of the Salzburger settlement to the current hospital, which opened 40 years ago and now has made plans for a bold expansion.

“We plan to build a modern new facility and create a center of health care excellence here in Effingham County,” Morgan said. “It’s important that we remember not only where we have been, where we are, but focus on where we need to be for the future.”

State Rep. Jon Burns, an Effingham County native, paid tribute to the doctors and hospital authority members who helped bring Effingham Hospital from its infancy to where it is today.

“We appreciate all the support from the Frank Arnsdorffs, the Ed Helmeys, the Dr. Webbs, the Dr. Browns, the Dr. Ratchfords,” he said, “and all those who every day built the hospital and cared for the patients.”

The book tells the story, state Sen. Jack Hill said, of Effingham citizens helping Effingham citizens.

“What greater work could there be than that?” he said.

Hill said Effingham residents spend about $60 million a year on hospital-related health care, and 80 percent is spent outside of the county.

“That loss of dollars results in the export of about 500 jobs,” he said.

By 2017, that loss could reach 800 jobs with out-of-county hospital expenditures and even if the population projections for then are high, it could still mean about 600 jobs, Hill said — equivalent to the number of jobs expected to be provided by EFACEC by that same year.

To get a business that would bring that same number of jobs, Hill said that firm could expect to get free land, infrastructure and longstanding tax abatements.

“These are dollars that are essentially already here,” he said.

Hill also said that the time is now to act on plans to improve the hospital. Projections put Effingham’s population at 80,000 by 2017.

“Do Effingham Countians have the expectation to have basic health care in this county?” he asked. “Or are we going to be satisfied as consumers in going to the other side of Savannah for health care? That’s a question that you as taxpayers and citizens have the opportunity to answer.”

Hospital Authority Chairman Stephen Mobley said it was heartwarming to see the crowd that came out Saturday to help the hospital celebrate its milestone.

“It boggles the mind how far we’ve come in 40 years,” he said. “And the next 40 years are going to be even better.”