Letters to the Editor

Letter: Give broad credit for hospital legacy

The 40-year history of the Hilton Head Hospital was covered Aug. 11 in The Island Packet with some erroneous information and not enough credit to the local population.

When the hospital idea was seriously floated in the early 1970s by Dr. Peter LaMotte and paid lawyer Bill Bethea, many locals, including business people like myself, felt it premature and financially unsustainable.

With an emotional pitch of "we need a hospital close by," a 50-acre site was donated by Phipps Land Co.; $7 million in revenue bonds were sold; and a state-of-the-art, 80-bed building was built with all private rooms and decorated first-class with expensive carpeting and an $8,000, small, round rug for the gift shop.

In 1975 it opened with only 40 beds, with the top floor underutilized for many years. Patients were slow to come. Many still used the excellent facilities in nearby cities. Revenues did not cover operating expenses and debt payment on the bonds. Default meant bonds were reduced to junk status.

In 1994, Tenet and other partners bought the nonprofit, debt-laden hospital for $20 million. Did the bond holders get paid? I think not. Instead, the $20 million was donated to start the charitable Community Foundation of the Lowcountry. A good thing.

Besides the local community, others deserving honorable mention for major contributions include Louis LaMotte (Peter's father), Dr. Bill Fries, the Hospital Auxiliary, and the Jaycees and Rotary clubs.

Donald C. Peterson

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