CLARKSVILLE — With closing documentation in hand, investors and city and county officials hope to see a new Clarksville hospital open its doors in July 2020.
City and county officials rejoiced Wednesday morning as they delivered news years in the making: Construction on the project is expected to start in four to six weeks.
Perseverance was key, Red River County Judge L.D. Williamson said, with the project suffering years of delay as investors cleared one hurdle after another. Now, Williamson and Clarksville Mayor Ann Rushing hope the hospital will improve the area’s quality of life while also giving the local economy the shove it needs to get going again.
The former Clarksville General Hospital, which cut 60 employees loose on its last day in 2014, was the county’s second largest employer, Wiliamson said. The largest is Clarksville ISD.
“It was huge (when the hospital closed),” Rushing said. “They had over 100 employees there for the most part. And they were very good-paying jobs, it wasn’t like minimum wage. So when you take that many people out of a small town, and their ability to have enough money left over from their living expenses to spend, it really hurt.”
Rushing believes the new hospital, which, to her knowledge, will operate as a for-profit facility, will usher in a new age of economic stimulus for the city. The previous hospital was a nonprofit, Williamson said.
“I hope this is a catalyst for more things to come, but we’re very thankful to have a state-of-the-art hospital,” Rushing said. “This will create those needed jobs for economic development.”
Having a local hospital also means the city will be more likely to retain its two nursing homes, Clarksville Nursing Center and Focused Care at Clarksville, Williamson said.
“People don’t like to put their mothers and dads in places where they don’t have any hospital to take them to in case there’s an emergency,” he said.
Dr. A.J. Hashmi, working with a group of investors, has spearheaded the effort to get Clarksville a new hospital. He’s spent years working and reworking the paperwork for its financing and construction, even hurdling the challenge of a bank closure. Williamson said the first round of paperwork took six to seven months to complete, but when it was done, the bank they were working with closed down. Its purchasing bank declined to help with the project, which sent it back to square one.
“It probably took us another six months to find another bank… and then took another six to eight months to get all the paperwork done for that bank,” Williamson said. “So it’s just taken forever to get it accomplished.”
Hashmi said he isn’t yet ready to say how many people the hospital will employ. However, he said, the hiring process is expected to begin roughly six months after construction gets underway.
“There are plenty of economic benefits, but I want to emphasize that medical care in that community was greatly lacking,” Hashmi said.
Tina Bell, director of public relations for LifeNet Inc., which provides ambulance service in Red River County, said having a hospital nearby will greatly improve the care people receive.
“Most of the calls we get are for traumatic injuries or emergencies, where time is of the essence and every minute counts,” Bell said.
“Back when we had a hospital in Clarksville, it typically took 10 to 12 minutes to get a patient back to the hospital. Without it, we had to take patients to (Paris Regional Medical Center) or Mount Pleasant, and the transport time increased by 20 to 30 minutes. That makes a huge difference.
“We’re super excited with the progress being made, and I think this will be a big step forward for care in Clarksville.”
After the old Clarksville hospital shut its doors, Hashmi and a group of investors bought the aging structure. That was in the summer of 2015, and they announced plans to invest millions into its renovation and to open a full-service hospital with a 24/7 emergency/trauma center and cardiac care center.
When the hospital opens, Hashmi clarified he will not own it, but will be a part of the managerial team.
“It’s been a tedious process to get to this point; there’ve been roadblocks,” Hashmi said. “But we’ve always wanted to do this, and all’s well that ends well.”
Tax breaks have not been sought for the $15 million project, Hashmi said.
Construction will be headed by Dallas-based Encore Enterprises, which will oversee the general contractors on the work, Hashmi said. He declined to comment on who the contractors will be, citing the bidding process.
Once construction starts, Hashmi estimates it will take 10 to 12 months to complete.
“If all goes according to plan, I think we should see it open by July of 2020,” Hashmi said.