On Monday, former Yadkin Valley Community Hospital operator HMC, CAH 10 Acquisition Company and Rural Community Hospitals of America (RCHA) filed a motion in federal court to dismiss Yadkin County’s lawsuit against them.
The documents filed in court on behalf of HMC, CAH10 and RCHA claim that HMC/CAH initially acted as the home office for the limited liability company CAH10 which ran the hospital but as of January 2013 were no longer providing those services and as such should not be named in the suit.
RCHA states in its motion that it has “never been a party to any contract or other agreement with” the county. Court documents filed on behalf of CAH10 state that it “repeatedly attempted to engage in discussions and negotiations with the county regarding whether CAH would be permitted to continue to operate the hospital after expiration of the lease. It is denied that the county ever engaged in good faith discussions with CAH over any such extension of the lease.”
“The statements made by them to the court today represent nothing but a continuation of the same old misleading story they have been telling for the last many months,” said County Chairman Kevin Austin. “We plan to continue to work hard for the citizens of Yadkin County to reestablish health care in our county in spite of their obstructionist tactics.”
The commissioners had been working to find another company to take over operation of the county-owned facility when on May 22 HMC/CAH unexpectedly shut down the hospital nearly two months ahead of the scheduled end of its lease agreement. The group claimed they were evicted from the hospital, but a federal judge ruled that were in contempt of court for violating a temporary restraining order obtained by the county in an attempt to keep the hospital open. HMC was ordered to vacate the building and turn over all keys to the county last Wednesday and they also have been ordered to pay financial damages to the county for costs incurred due to the unexpected hospital shutdown.
Since the hospital’s closure, EMS personnel have been stationed at the entrance to the hospital emergency room around the clock, in case area residents unaware of the closure were to come in need of medical assistance. Now that the county has the keys to the facility back in its possession, EMS personnel are at now able to be inside the building rather than having to remain in the ambulances outside the building.
County Manager Lisa Hughes and Vice Chairman Commissioner David Moxley took media representatives on a tour of the empty hospital on Monday and answered questions about the steps being taken to reopen the hospital.
When asked if the facility was left in good condition after HMC left, Hughes replied that there was “some work to do.”
“We’re going to get busy cleaning and get ready to get somebody in here,” Hughes said. “We have a lot of cleaning to do, they basically just walked out the door.”
Hughes said the county has hired Dwayne Stanley, the maintenance manager for the hospital, to continue working to help clean up the facility. Several other former HMC employees also have been hired to help with the medical records.
Hughes said that the cleaning and organization would take a few weeks and that the county also is still working to find a new group to reopen and operate the hospital. She said that reopening the physicians practice might be able to be done sooner, and that is a question many have been asking when they call in for their medical records.
The reopening of the entire hospital will take longer, Hughes said.
“We’re still in the process of talking with vendors to provide the hospital services and operate it and that will take probably about 120 days because once we secure that provider to come in here and operate then they have go through the process of getting all the certifications for radiology, for the lab, so that they can get it back open, as well as the provider numbers from CMS which is the Medicare, Medicaid numbers,” she said.
“If the provider were to take on HMC’s numbers they would have to take on a lot of debt that HMC owes to the federal government and that is not fair to anybody coming in to take over an operation,” Hughes added. “The state is graciously working with us trying to expedite that entire process.”
Hughes said that handling the medical records had been a challenge. While the records from the physicians practice were easy to navigate as they were in alphabetical order, the actual hospital records had a different type of coding and filing system. The county is now in possession of those codes and able to retrieve those records, although one area of the records room is piled high with files that have not been filed at all.
Another concern in regard to the hospital was that HMC may have taken much of the equipment out of the facility when they left. Moxley said that was not the case. Most all of the equipment was left behind with the exception of the endoscopy machines. Moxley said with a little clean up and reorganization the facility would be able to be reopen without having to acquire all new medical equipment.
HMC shut down the hospital on Memorial Day weekend and Moxley was the only commissioner in town at the time. He said the entire process has caused a lot of stress for the board as they were also in the midst of working on the new fiscal year budget.
“We were hoping for a smooth transition to another healthcare provider and we were really surprised that they quickly shut down the hospital,” Moxley said. “It has been a very trying time. They basically shutdown the hospital, but they still had control of the building.”
Walking through the empty hospital, even media personnel commented on the eeriness of the atmosphere and Moxley agreed it was unsettling.
“It’s a little spooky in a way to walk in here and to see the lab with test tubes and equipment, everything sitting vacant, it could very quickly again be used, but to see it in this condition at this time it’s a little unnerving,” Moxley said. He said despite the spooky feeling in the empty building, the hospital could be operation again soon.
“Most of the equipment is here, what’s not here could be leased or acquired in a pretty short time, but the license, certifications and medical provider numbers will take more time that’s what the hold up will probably be with getting another provider in,” he said.
Kitsey E. Burns may be reached at 336-679-2341 or on Twitter @RippleReporterK.