Closing the maternity ward of Marshall's hospital is absolutely unacceptable - or at least it should be. Moreover, the corporation that now owns the hospital is apparently unaware that this community built this hospital beginning in 1909.

That's right, not a corporation, not some business entity, but the community itself created this facility more than a century ago. Beginning in 1909 with a major bequest from E. Kahn, whose commitment to Marshall was unswerving, a 12-bed hospital was constructed on South Washington. By 1912, it became a public institution owned by shareholders from the city of Marshall

By 1954, the hospital, now called simply "Memorial Hospital," hit a financial crisis. It had the option of becoming a city or county owned facility, but the citizens of Marshall stepped up, said "No," rallied around their hospital and raised the funds so that it continued to belong to the people of Marshall and its financial stability was reestablished. Also reestablished was the concept that the citizens of Marshall owned this most important service.

And the citizens of Marshall continue to support their hospital. Those women in their pink smocks contribute more than $30,000 a year to the operation of the hospital. Memorial Hospital foundation continues to raise private funds for the hospital. And now some corporation making the decision - not based on facts if you look at the statistics for the babies born Marshall, which has remained static for at least a decade - have decided that Marshall's historic community will no longer be the birthplace for anybody. Moreover, the maternity ward of the hospital, award-winning in the past, is slated to become storage and not a place for new life. In my opinion it's time for the community to step up one more time. It's time to say a resounding "No" to this corporate decision. It's time to look for some new solutions to a hospital operation so uncaring that it's going to force women in labor to race to Longview to have their babies.

We can do better than that. We've come to the rescue in the past. It looks as though it's time to do it again.

As a Marshall City Commissioner, all I can do is use my position as a bully pulpit to search for some way to reverse this unacceptable decision. I'm not sure what that is but I intend to do all that I can to find it. But I do know one thing: The city commission cannot make the change alone. It's going to take citizens of Marshall, who recognize the critical importance of their hospital, to rally one more time. My abiding belief in the grit of this town says we can do it!

Gail Beil, Marshall