Over 250 people filled the American Legion Building on Monday night, March 3, for the first open meeting of the PAC Friends of Graham Hospital. The group formed last Thursday after the creation two months ago of Young County Citizens for Responsible Taxation, a PAC with a primary goal of repealing the newly established Graham hospital's taxing district.

GRMC doctor Steve Jones, chairman of Friends of Graham Hospital, started the meeting at 7:05 p.m. and told the attendants, many of whom had to stand in the back, that the main goal of FGH was to run a campaign of information geared toward convincing Grahamites not to sign a repeal petition.

Several members from the committee spoke, many providing anecdotal stories of situations in which they had benefitted from having a hospital in Graham. One speaker was 6th grade GJHS student Claire Jones, Chairman Jones' daughter, who said that she was born in GRMC with a hole in her lung, and has since received services from the hospital throughout her life.

Graham City Councilman Spencer Street also spoke to the crowd about what having a hospital in town meant to him and his family, but it was Jones' return to the podium that likely created the biggest stir among the audience, as the GRMC doctor introduced hard figures into the argument against repeal.

“We have a budget shortfall of $2.2 million per year,” Jones said regarding the possibility of a buyout that Young County Citizens for Responsible Taxation is currently hoping for. “That takes into consideration a $1.1 million benefit we get due to being a city-owned hospital.”

Jones said that any for-profit hospital wanting to buy GRMC would see it as being $3.3 million in debt, a financial situation “that is not a good investment for their share-owners.”

Read the entire story in Wednesday's Graham Leader.