Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

September 23, 2013

Not all gloom at hospital meeting

Ezra Mann
Pauls Valley Democrat

emann@pvdemocrat.com — Medical staff at Pauls Valley General Hospital made it clear at a recent meeting by the PV Hospital Authority that they’ve had no trouble in keeping their own morale up in the midst of a prolonged period of uncertainty.

However, through the hosted question and answer session many of them feel, despite being on the front lines day in and out, they are the most in the dark.

Sympathizing with this sentiment and trying to catch those employed there up, Authority Chairman Gary Alfred conveyed how the lessons learned from the process are being applied to the decisions moving forward.

“What we’re trying to do is get this hospital to a point where we are attractive to someone, which we are,” said Alfred, also making clear how this also involved the decision to go into bankruptcy.

“Even though the word bankruptcy sounds bad, to be honest it really helped this hospital… we were in such a hole.”

Those lessons came via the first attempt to find a buyer for the hospital through St. Anthony Health System, and according to City Attorney Jay Carlton, the original plan did not go forward once they revealed their intentions after their examination of the hospitals records.

Alfred pointed out how they had basically offered to close the main facility here and instead construct an emergency clinic that would send more serious cases north along the interstate; a process that could have taken two years and came with no promise that the current building would remain open in the meantime.

However, Hospital Trustee Patrick Grimmett added despite all of this, another positive that has arisen as the due diligence with the current unnamed suitor has expired; more potential buyers can now come forward to examine the hospital.

It has to do with an attached non-compete agreement that is no longer applicable and already one other unnamed entity has started to show they may be interested as well.

Alfred said this does not rule out the first unnamed party that went through a due diligence process just recently, but rather allows more hope from the fact that everything in the future may not have to ride on only one option.

“Well, all this time we’re under the impression, we’ve got this money, we’re ready to buy, we’ve just got to do our due diligence,” said Alfred, speaking of SSM Oklahoma.

“I’m not sure when the timing was, but I know Jay walked into a council meeting and they had walked into his office and said ‘we’re done, we’re not buying it anymore.’”

Answering an inquiry from one attendee among the staff, all three members of the Authority made it clear that at this point, they would like to find someone to purchase the hospital outright instead of going through another management agreement as was the case with St. Anthony.

Alfred felt this should be the case as their time to make these changes and the line of credit are not infinite and noted how the authority trustees did not feel confident in doing another similar agreement after how the last one turned out.

Alfred further mentioned how the primary current suitor has been asked what their plans would be and the word right now is that they plan to keep the facility as a place to bring patients instead of a stopping point before sending them along. This added to the sentiment that they want to make sure all avenues are covered before an agreement is announced or the suitor is named.

“We want to ensure quality health care and for them to give us an answer on how long,” said Alfred.

Some of the questions also inquired as to how essential the half cent sales tax proposal is and the answer was again that it was vital as it would supplement an interested party’s transition of ownership. Alfred noted how one thing he was uncertain about regarding the tax was if the residents would approve it if a suitor was not named before the election.

Alfred said it is needed to help give a boost to replacing old equipment, making repairs that have been put off and even pay off a $3 million plus loan the city took on to allow more time.

“To answer your question, what that half cent sales tax does is it subsidizes things like that,” said Alfred.

As the discussion ended one gentleman asked whether or not St. Anthony would now be approached again now that the sales tax will be something to help provide financial stability and the feeling was that approaching them again was not out of the question. The trustees all noted that they had not had any significant negotiations with them since the previous attempt had not worked out.

“Whoever comes wants to know the community is willing to give to make this a successful venture as well,” said Hospital Trustee Jocelyn Rushing.

“It’s going to take every one of us doing our part to keep our hospital.”