Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

March 21, 2013

Closure rumors, home health latest hospital concerns

Ezra Mann
Pauls Valley Democrat

emann@pvdemocrat.com — A recent decision to not purchase Pauls Valley General Hospital by St. Anthony Health System has many concerned about the future of the facility, so much so that Mayor Tim Gamble felt it prudent to address rumors.

The biggest of those causing a stir around the community is a fear the hospital will close within a couple of weeks, one that picked up in intensity about a week ago when Gamble started getting more calls and e-mails about it.

Despite this concern, he noted that there is no substance to the rumor and that efforts like the recent Chapter 9 bankruptcy filing is proof how the PV Hospital Authority is doing everything it can to prevent that very thing.

“I want to reassure everyone the only plan the authority has is for this hospital to survive,” said Gamble.

“I understand how these rumors get started and with everything going on how everyone is very concerned when they hear these things.”

Gamble noted how while with a best case scenario he’d like to have the debt restructured by the end of the year, it will take time and besides cuts like emergency surgery and obstetrics, all other services are expected to continue uninterrupted.

Discussions are still even ongoing with St. Anthony’s parent company SSM Oklahoma, who is for the moment still involved in an assisting role.

However, the authority recently took action to protect one of their services through the law firm handling their Chapter 9 process when all of their employees under their home health service were recruited away by one of their former home health care consultants, according to Gamble.

It was a week ago Monday that the eight employees under that branch of the hospital gave two weeks notice, which caused the hospital to have to rush to find replacements to keep it going.

Gamble noted there will be no disruption of service, but a letter was sent out asking this individual to cease recruiting away hospital employees, since such action would severely impact the revenue they need just to operate at this time. The individual has not responded and was also asked to stop attempts from any other areas as well, which they felt would happen if they did not make a move.

“If we did not have home health it would impact our revenue stream during this time of reorganization,” said Gamble, noting how they really can’t afford any other losses and will replace those employees as they can with qualified personnel.

“We considered it a raid by this individual.”

As far as the rest of the hospital, Chapter 9 has also put on hold plans like selling PVGH’s assisted living facility, The Willows, to the PV Hospital Foundation after they made an offer last fall. It was something those like Gamble were ready to proceed with before St. Anthony requested it be temporarily delayed until their purchase of the hospital was done.

A sale could still take place to the foundation, but it will either have to be approved by the court system during the Chapter 9 process under a bidding format or wait until that process has been completed to try again on their own, said Gamble.

There are no plans to sell their hospice service or home health and anything that would be sold in Chapter 9 would also have to be handled by the courts.

“Pauls Valley General Hospital is not unique in this situation it finds itself in,” said Gamble, noting how other hospitals have similar debt problems that have forced change in ownership or management.

“The Authority continues to be committed to citizens to have a local hospital and also committed to provide the best care possible.”