Morthland College Health Services President Dr. Tim Morthland has announced his intention to build a new hospital to serve the residents of Franklin County, Illinois.

The hospital will be built in Benton. Morthland has been working with city officials to designate a site off Interstate 57 near the Benton airport for a 10-acre campus. “We are in the dark ages in healthcare right now, but there is a bright future ahead of us in Franklin County,” said Benton Mayor Fred Kondritz.

“The City of Benton is committed to partnering with Dr. Morthland to provide assistance with infrastructure and other needs.” Morthland, a practicing physician who is also the founding president of Morthland College, said his vision includes a 25-40 bed hospital with an emergency room and surgical center. The campus would also include clinic space for local providers. “This hospital should be a cooperative with all providers in the county — a bonafide group service with space for the community’s specialists and primary care providers to practice,” he said.

The closing of the UMWA hospital in West Frankfort has been a personal motivator for Morthland. In addition, he said, the scope and services of health care provided through the county’s only remaining facility — Franklin Hospital — is not sufficient for the county’s residents. “Our healthcare market is highly fragmented,” Morthland said. “We see patients leaving this county to seek treatment in Jefferson, Williamson, Jackson and even Saline and Perry counties.”

Every year, millions of federal dollars in Medicare and Medicaid money are traveling outside of Franklin County with the county’s residents who are forced to go elsewhere for medical care — another hit to the economy in what is already one of Illinois’ poorest counties. “There is an ethical mandate in my view to bring a solution to the problem,” Morthland said. West Frankfort Mayor Tom Jordan said not having a sufficient hospital has hurt his city in the quest to attract new business and industry. “Our county desperately needs this,” Jordan said. Morthland College Health Services currently employs 30 health care providers, including Benton native and current resident Dr. Deedra McLain. “Our community deserves a hospital of excellence, a place we can take ourselves, our family and our children for medical care and feel content that we are going to get the care we deserve,” McLain said. “I have no doubt Dr. Morthland has the ability to create and provide that.” The hospital project has a 3-4 year timeline and a projected $30 to $40 million construction budget. Upon completion, it will create an estimated 250 full-time jobs in Franklin County.

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