New hospital

Health care industry already

a big part of local economy Rockdale is a place that can certainly use good economic news, wherever and whenever it can find it, and a big slice of it is coming our way.

Blackhawk Healthcare is ready to proceed with plans to construct what will basically be a new hospital incorporating the current Richards Memorial Hospital.

There's already a complex relationship between Blackhawk, Little River Healthcare and local health care facilities, including what is now referred to as the "downtown clinic," the former Rockdale Medical Association Building at 602 North Main.

Blackhawk, which operates the hospital, must now purchase it, along with the land, in order to get a renovation expansion loan from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Here's what's not complex at all. Thanks to Blackhawk's involvement—$6.15 million in capital improvements in the hospital facility—and its expansion of services, health care has become a major player in Rockdale's economy.

There are approximately 200 Blackhawk employees in Rockdale, a total that includes full-time, part-time and "as needed" positions.

And that total will certainly grow as the local hospital and clinics expand.

It's also significant that the new hospital will incorporate the old one. It's a block from the new showpiece Rockdale High School. Probably the last thing anybody wanted to see was the hulk of a vacant building just down the hill.

It wasn't a sentimental decision, though. Architects told Blackhawk the original structure, constructed in 1973-74, was still in excellent shape.

Corporations don't make decisions based on intangibles, and they shouldn't, but Rockdale has a spiritual link with that site, and that building, and it's good for our community's hospital to remain where it is.

Hundreds of people worked hard to get that hospital built 35 years ago and to keep it open, against some very high odds, during three separate financial crises.

Rockdale supported its hospital. The hospital, in so many ways, is returning the favor.—M.B.

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2009-11-05 digital edition

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