The following editorial appeared in a September 1982 edition of the Bolivar Herald-Free Press. Given the news out of Citizens Memorial Hospital last week — that the hospital’s one and only chief, Donald Babb, is set to retire in January — we thought it appropriate to take a look back. 

What did our predecessors think about the future of the hospital as the ribbon was cut? Could they have predicted where CMH, under around four decades of Babb’s leadership, would be today? Has that future lived up to — or beyond — those hopes and predictions?

What, dear readers, do you think? 

• • •

Work not finished

Citizens Memorial Hospital was formally dedicated last Saturday. The doors open for business today (Thursday). Dreams have become brick and steel and cement. It’s for real and it’s here.

And maybe now is a good time to pause, relax and reflect on what a good job we’ve all done to bring Citizens Memorial Hospital to reality. Now is the time for the board and administrator and staff members to relax, after a long, tedious five-year push to get the doors open.

Now is the time to relax, pat everyone on the back and say, “Well done.” 

Wrong.

The congratulatory phrases and high sounding talk were thick last Saturday. It was a great moment in the history of this community. Perhaps one of the best. Certainly one of the most significant and the most meaningful to a majority of the people here.

But the hardest part of the project may still lie ahead. We have, as beautiful and functional as it may seem, a large, expensive hospital on our north city limits. And hospitals don’t pay off, with all their payroll and sophisticated equipment, unless there are patients.

It has to be made to pay. And it will if local people will take the good advice of their local physicians and utilize the services available. ...

So it’s time to relax. It’s been a long, hard climb. The job is completed. Bolivar — Polk County — has its hospital.

Wrong. The hospital is here, but no one is relaxing.

“I’ll relax when I see the first financial statement that is in the back on the bottom line,” Kerry Douglas, the chairman of the board at CMH, said. “Our biggest job may still be ahead. None of us on the board are so naive as to think we’ve got it made. The dedication was a milestone and an important one. Now, we have to settle down to business as a hospital board, with a real hospital.”

That doesn’t mean Douglas and any of the other board members, administrator Don Babb or anyone else is worried about CMH making it. But all are realistic and all know this is a big business — and an awfully important one to an awful lot of people.

So congratulations all around to all who have worked so long and hard to make it all possible. But let us all remember that the big job — the continuing job — the day-to-day job — is making this hospital be what it can be for the citizens of this area. It will take lots more hard work. And in the big picture, what has been done so far will fade into memory as Citizens Memorial Hospital comes to life and begins its role of providing accessible, quality health care on a continuing basis.

CMH has needed your support to get this far. It will continue to need your support to fulfill its mission in this community.

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