Foundation started to support hospital

Published 5:14 pm Tuesday, August 19, 2014


Marion is my hometown, and when I was young, we had a viable hospital and two very strong family practices.

It was one of the ways you described yourself, Dr. Wilkerson or Dr. Deramus’ patient. I knew the doctors of all of my friends. Over the years, many small towns, including Marion, have lost their hospitals and many people go out of town for physicians, and then only to a “specialist.”

Email newsletter signup

We are very fortunate in Demopolis to still have a hospital, not only with an excellent emergency department, but a highly evolved intensive care unit. Most citizens have their own family physician. The citizens of Demopolis have always supported the hospital, and that hasn’t changed.

I came to Demopolis in 1983 to practice medicine with my great uncle, Reese Holifield, M.D. I don’t think there will ever be another physician like him.

In 1983, he had 100 beds and they were frequently full. But times have changed. We used to have people in the hospital for weeks with migraine headaches. Now we have a new medicine (Imitrex), and migraines don’t get admitted any at all.

We always had patients with severe peptic ulcer disease even requiring major surgery. Then Tagamet and later Prilosec came out, and we now know peptic ulcers are caused by infection, and if there is an admission, it’s only a couple of days. Now we treat pneumonia as an outpatient. The list goes on and on.

Now we have 30 hospital beds, not because we don’t support our hospital, but because medicine is better, and we don’t have to be hospitalized as often or for as long.

Since 1983, we have shifted to outpatient services and preventive medicine. We have added a home health agency, greatly expanded our physical therapy department, including the Wellness Center and inpatient long-term rehabilitation services, a geri-psychiatric service, a full service cancer treatment center and a detox ward for alcohol and substance abuse patients.

We have cardiology, urology, neurology, orthopedic and cancer specialists who come here so we don’t have to travel for healthcare. Now we even have a helicopter service for emergency transfers.

Two years ago, Medicare shocked us by withdrawing $2.3 million with no notice. We weren’t the only ones. Hospitals all over Alabama are closing because of this. We had to close labor and delivery, our most costly department, because it was losing $1 million per year.

There have been multiple articles about the blow suffered by DCH in Tuscaloosa. The busiest emergency department in the state is in that hospital, but years ago, the people of Tuscaloosa had the foresight to form a foundation to support the hospital for when insurance companies and government agencies fail.

Now we have formed a foundation for our hospital. We have started projects and hope community members will volunteer to help and even donate money to the foundation.

My dream is to fund a new women and children’s center and start delivering babies again. Because Dr. Hodge contiues to provide excellent prenatal care (though he delivers them in Tuscaloosa), I feel as soon as we can fund the program, deliveries will start back immediately.

The Napoleonic refugees knew what they were doing when they named Demopolis (the city of the people). It remains the same today.

The people of Demopolis always pull together, and we can accomplish anything, including saving our hospital.