Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

April 29, 2013

Questions plenty on hospital's future

Ezra Mann
Pauls Valley Democrat

emann@pvdemocrat.com — A town hall meeting at Pauls Valley General Hospital Friday afternoon may have ended with almost more questions than answers, but it was made apparent quickly the fight to save the medical facility is far from over.

Mayor Tim Gamble and City Councilman Hal Blevins were on hand to answer questions, some of the first of which focused on why the name of the suitor for PVGH could not be revealed at this time. While he reiterated how it is due to a non-disclosure agreement where the party interested could not be named, he did note how it is another nonprofit hospital and a name would be revealed once the due diligence process to review all aspects of the hospital, yet to begin, is over.

“I was just so ecstatic that we had someone interested, I went along with whatever they asked,” said Gamble, noting how he also wasn’t sure why it had to remain a secret and it could be 90 days once the suitor starts requesting information. “We’re going through a new due diligence, with an entirely new hospital.”

Questions from staff members of PVGH included what the interested parties were looking for in order to convince them to purchase the hospital as well as how they would make it until then and Gamble noted aside from community support, the debt incurred over the years would need to be eliminated first. He added that the council and hospital authority are looking at getting a bridge loan/line of credit to be able to afford purchasing or fixing what they need to stay open.

“We can’t tell you the entire plan yet, but part of it has to do with our bankruptcy… the initial plan is to get a bridge loan to make sure we can stay open until the end of this year, which is when they anticipated taking over” said Gamble, adding an answer about equipment that needs to be fixed or purchased would be easier to handle with a loan. “That’s part of the bridge loan, to make sure we can be a hospital until the end of the year.”

The total amount of the loan is yet to be determined, but answering another inquiry from those in attendance, Gamble said one of the ways to pay off the debt could be establishing a sales tax several months from now.  If passed, the tax would likely be for a limited time and may go further since the debt has dropped from $8 million to $5 million from the start of bankruptcy to now.

“The city sales tax is to pay off our existing debt, which will include this new bridge loan… it has to be large enough to ensure our plan works,” said Gamble, who answered another inquiry that more could be known on details of the loan as early as the coming week. “All discussions I’ve been involved with it is a sunset tax.”

Patrick Grimmett, who will be officially sworn in as a new council member at the first meeting in May weighed in with some input that another way the debt could be paid off is if the hospital is leased to the potential suitor first. Answering another question, Gamble said the sales tax could then create a reserve fund where purchase of equipment/services would be even easier and that as a result of the agreement they will not be in contact with any other suitors with the focus on completing a deal.

“We still have the same home town care,” said Gamble, noting how after talking to their chapter 9 bankruptcy lawyers, the feeling he gets is that they are very positive about their prospects. “I assure you does make a difference to have it.”

In the end, Blevins also attempted to offer some comfort, especially to the employees there to keep as positive an attitude as possible while they work things out and to try and create an example that encourages people to use the hospital as a service. Several comments from the employees there included feelings like because they will have a presence at BrickFest next weekend they are still committed to the community and that doctors here are still looking for patients, means there is still room to grow medical care.

The council is going to look at trying to fix and improve as much as possible in the meantime and Blevins praised the sentiment of one employees, who said that they wouldn’t be there if they didn’t care.

“I wish we had some easy answers, but we’re doing the best that we can,” said Blevins. “Tell yourself that I am performing a service for myself as well as making a living… You have to have some personal responsibility.”