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By Echo Menges
The Memphis City Council has approved a request to re-zone property recently purchased by the NEMO Health Council as a commercial property for the purpose of opening a new clinic within the city limits.
The property is located at 118 East Grand Street, which is off the north side of Highway 136 west of the Sunrise Motel property. It is the former location of the Church of Christ.
Dr. Shane Wilson, DO, of Memphis, has recently taken a position with the health council and is expected to begin practicing at the new clinic. Several of his current patients told the Memphis Democrat they have been notified he will end his service at the Scotland County Hospital next month.
“As you can see from the proposal, the clinic would consist of five exam rooms, a waiting room, and some space for some office staff. Other than a new front door and an updated facade, the overall structure and blueprint of the existing building will remain the same,” David Rouner, General Council for the NEMO Health Council, told a collection of planning and zoning committee members and Memphis City Council Members during a public hearing on Wednesday evening, January 25, 2023, at the Memphis Firehouse.
The public meeting attracted a collection of community members supporting the Scotland County Hospital including CEO Meagan Weber and SCH General Council Kevin Brown. City Attorney Brett Bozarth was also in attendance, along with Dr. Wilson.
Those in attendance voiced concerns about staffing, specifically, whether the new clinic will leach needed staff from the already short-staffed hospital, direct recruitment of hospital staff, an increase in weekday vehicle traffic to the property, visibility and the safety of the driveway as patients enter and exit on a curved section of Highway 136. Concerns were also raised about the need for more residential housing and whether re-zoning the property to commercial would hinder residential housing development.
According to Andy Grimm, Health Council CEO, he expects Dr. Weber to have two nurses, a medical assistant, and a front desk receptionist on staff at the clinic. He vowed to refrain from individually recruiting hospital staff outside of standard hiring advertisements. Grimm also agreed that changes like cutting back the treeline on the west side of the property to increase visibility for motorists entering and exiting the property would be done.
Dr. Wilson briefly addressed the crowd as well to explain he went to the health council seeking a new position, and affirmed he was not recruited. It was his choice to make the change in employment.
Statement by Dr. Shane Wilson During Public Hearing
I’m Dr. Wilson. I apologize to Andy (Grimm) for one, for having to deal with these kinds of questions. This is a zoning committee meeting, and should be held to nothing less. My grandparents grew up in this town. My parents grew up in this town. I grew up in this town. I intend for my kids to grow up in this town,” said Dr. Shane Wilson during the planning and zoning meeting. “And if I can’t do what I was meant to do and what I want to do and work for this community in the capacity where I’m at, I feel the obligation to leave that employment. Mr. Grimm and his associates had zero part in talking to me or recruiting me. In fact, I went to them with the sole purpose of saying – I want to stay here, can you help me? There is no ill intent toward this community. There is no ill intent toward your hospital, or my hospital. The last thing I want to see is this hospital close. It’s my community. So, I apologize to you guys for having to field questions from people who clearly don’t understand my position. And my position is I intend to stay here as long as I’m allowed to do what I want to do, which is take care of this community and expand on taking care of this community effectively. Thank you.
No one who lives within 185 feet of the property was in attendance to voice opposition or support during the public hearing, nor did anyone submit any written statements in opposition or support of the re-zoning proposal. The absence of neighboring property owners was a significant factor because the public meeting served as an opportunity for neighbors directly impacted by the change in zoning to contest the re-zoning permit.
The planning and zoning committee decided to give their recommendation to the Memphis City Council at the coming regularly scheduled council meeting held on Thursday, February 2, 2023, at the Memphis City Hall.
During the city council meeting, the committee and the council voted unanimously to approve the re-zoning permit making way for the new clinic to move forward.
According to Grimm, he would like to open the new clinic by the end of March. The hours of operation would be from 8:00 a.m to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday.
SCH CEO Meagan Wever issued the following statement to the Memphis Democrat with her concerns and hopes for a future partnership between SCH and the coming NEMO Health Council clinic.
Statement from SCH CEO Meagan Weber
When I found out that the Health Council was going to be coming to town, of course I had concerns. One of the biggest being our workforce crisis. They will be hiring nurses and clinic staff, that could potentially affect the Hospital’s current hiring and staffing situation.
Another concern is that the hospital has a lot of things to take into consideration when hiring physicians. For example, will they be able to cover the hospital, labor and delivery, Emergency Room, etc?
When the Health Council brings on a physician, those things don’t have to be considered. We are fighting hard to keep our OB program, and if the Health Council brought in another physician with no consideration of how that would affect our services to provide OB care, it could be a detriment to that service.
But, I have had good conversations with the Health Council’s CEO, Andy Grimm, voicing the concerns I have, and I’m confident in our ability to collaborate and work together for the health and well-being of not only our community, but also our hospital.
When you really look at what is presented, the Health Council is allowing a local doctor to stay local. Dr. Wilson was ready for a lifestyle change, and I respect that there are seasons in life where change is necessary on a personal and career level.
What is great about this, is that he has a strong passion for our community and people, and caring for his patients so they don’t have to travel out of town. The hospital has lost doctors over the last few years, and we need to continue to strive for stability in our community’s healthcare access, and this allows his patients to stay close to home.
Dr. Wilson will still be able to support the hospital by referring testing and procedures to be performed locally, as well. My stance will always remain that when we work together for the common good, for the right reasons, and communicate well, things will work themselves out for the best. I’m excited for the future of Scotland County Hospital, and the communities we serve.
Video recordings of the planning and zoning public hearing and city council meetings held on January 25 and February 2 are available on the Memphis Democrat Facebook page.