Lauderdale County leaders lay out plan to rescue struggling hospital

Published: Mar. 11, 2019 at 6:23 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Monday officials in Lauderdale County laid out their plan to save their struggling, rural hospital with the group saying a buyer has been found as the hospital will go through a bankruptcy filing.

“We worry every day that it may not be open the next day,” said Maurice Gaines, Lauderdale County mayor.

Staff members at Lauderdale Community Hospital tell WMC Action News 5 that the emergency room has been closed for weeks as issues with delayed pay and no doctors persist. Monday, the parking lot was empty and a tree was down in front of the building while rehab patients were wheeled in through a side door.

Two weeks ago a federal judge appointed a receiver to step in and manage the hospital, pushing its owners Empower HMS to the side. Last week, that receiver filed a petition in court to pursue chapter 11 bankruptcy, and a federal judge in Memphis granted the expedited filing.

“We’ve got an offer. It’s a non-binding offer on the table,” said Gaines, “If we can get through this court process, then we’ll have a bright future and good outcome for our local hospital.”

City and county leaders tell WMC Action News 5 that a management group is willing to come in. They said it is a group familiar with the hospital’s operations and open to purchasing the facility.

“I feel a lot better this week than I did last week,” said Jon Pavletic, Ripley mayor.

The financial issues of the hospital and its owner Empower HMS first came to light this fall, officials said. That’s when they reached out to leaders with that company to see what could be done but got no real response.

A federal judge wrote in an order last week that the company has “failed to weigh in or explain the financial confusion at the hospital.”

Despite all the bad news of the previous months there is new hope in this community that the hospital will be saved.

"In a community we need a hospital, and we’re going to keep it, " said Craig Fitzhugh, a former longtime state lawmaker.

Leaders did not want to publicize the name of the prospective buyer until the deal is further finalized. The CEO of the hospital was unavailable Monday when WMC Action News 5 inquired for comment.

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