Over time, the community was unable to sustain the need for two hospitals and, in October of 2005, Harris Hospital acquired Newport Hospital with plans to occupy that building.
However, after the acquisition, the feasibility study determined that the cost to move Harris Hospital into the Newport Hospital building would have cost as much as was spent to purchase the property in the beginning. Various departments were too small to handle the current Harris Hospital volumes, and it was unreasonable to attempt to renovate the building into code and regulatory compliance.
“Since 2005, every option has been explored to get the building occupied. There was an aggressive search for opportunities to sell or even donate the building to multiple and various agencies, but none of them were able to make it a feasible option due to the same renovation costs that prevented the hospital move initially,” said Robert Rupp, Chief Executive Officer at Harris Hospital.
Demolition of the building will be a community benefit by removing the environmental hazard and making the area a safer place. Mayor David Stewart states, “While it is a shame that the building has to come down, with it being in the shape that it’s in now, it needs to come down to open up the property for future development. We are in correspondence with the demolition crew and are doing the job within our permitted guidelines.”
The medical office buildings adjacent to the property will remain intact and continue to function in the same capacity.
“Aesthetically, the demolition will improve the appearance of the property tremendously. It is not appealing to have empty buildings in disrepair, and this will continue the trend that occurred last year throughout the town to remove empty, unused buildings. This is a progressive movement forward,” said Rupp.
Jackson County Judge Jeff Phillips agrees that it is a good move for the community. “I hate to see the building be torn down too, but Harris Hospital has tried every way possible to retain the building and make it usable. At this point, for future growth within our city, this is the best resolution,” Phillips said.
The property has also been in consideration as a potential site for a future VA home by the Veterans Home Task Force. The property has been offered at no cost to the state, which would add up to 250 jobs in the community.
Newport Economic Development Commission Executive Director, Jon Chadwell stated, “We understand that people may be concerned about how this will impact our VA Home proposal. Our understanding is that the primary interest is in the property rather than the building itself, so this action should have little or no effect on our proposal to the VA. The NEDC supports Harris Hospital in making the decisions necessary to remain competitive in an increasingly complex medical environment.”