SPRINGFIELD -- The Hospital Authority of Effingham County learned during its meeting Tuesday night that some of its residents aren't willing to swallow the bitter pill that it wants them to take.
Dozens of Effingham Medical Partners LLC patients voiced support for Dr. Joseph Ratchford, who was recently notified that he is expected to soon vacate the building that has housed his practice for 27 years. The meeting room, Effingham Hospital's Kieffer Hall, was packed with nearly 70 supporters and about 20 more stood in a nearby hallway.
Speaker after speaker, many of them referring to Ratchford as "Dr. Joe," asked authority members why Ratchford and his partner, Dr. Prakash Patel, were offered only a six-month lease after operating at 449 Ga. Hwy 119 South for so long. Patel has worked with Ratchford since 1998.
Authority members opened the meeting by stating it wouldn't answer questions regarding the matter.
The authority notified Ratchford in November that he and Patel would receive only a six-month lease offer. Ratchford started plans for a new Springfield office on Hwy 21 when lease negotiations took a contentious turn. The building won't be ready until 2019, however, leaving him and his patients in a lurch.
Some of the pleas to let Ratchford remain in his current location until his new building is ready were tearful. Several speakers credited Ratchford with saving their life or the life of a loved one.
Many of the comments in support of Ratchford drew applause or nods of affirmation, including remarks by Effingham County Board of Education Chairman Lamar Allen.
"That man knows what he is doing and he has high standards," Allen said. "If he disagrees with you on some things, that means some of your standards aren't right somewhere."
When Allen closed by telling the authority that community members have a right to know the reasoning for forcing Ratchford out, many in the crowd responded, "Amen!"
The authority jotted down every question from the speakers and said it would provide answers at a later date. It also said it would take their comments under advisement and respond to the lease situation before its next called meeting on Jan 23.
See the Dec. 27 edition of the Effingham Herald for more details.