A glimmer of hope still appears to be in play for the chances of someday getting Pauls Valley's hospital back open.
An update to the PV Hospital Authority this week indicates efforts are still moving forward to get a license renewal for the hospital closed since last fall.
City Attorney Jay Carlton told the four trustees, who are also members of the PV City Council, his latest contact with Mike Schuster of the Southern Plains Medical Group was a positive one.
Southern Plains is the group announcing some time ago its intention to try and get a renewal of the local hospital's acute care license at the time of its closure in October 2018.
“He has been pressing on with this and getting a hospital open again in Pauls Valley,” Carlton said about Schuster.
As part of the effort Schuster has been in contact with officials at the Oklahoma Department of Health, specifically the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, which will decide if the former hospital's license, right now described as “inactive,” is renewed or a new one would be required to get the facility reopened.
“She sent an email he said indicated to him they're not strictly looking to issue a new license, but instead is focusing on the renewal of the license,” Carlton said, adding Schuster was referring to his communications with a specific official with the state health agency.
“If we get the license renewed with the Oklahoma Health Department he feels now we'll be able to enter into a contract with CMS.”
The CMS is the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which is responsible for entering into agreements with operating hospitals to receive Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements.
“Of course he's putting a positive spin on it. I remain cautiously optimistic,” Carlton adds.
It was just a couple of months ago Schuster and Southern Plains CEO Len Lacefield told local residents at a town hall type meeting the license renewal would give them a realistic chance of getting the former Pauls Valley General Hospital open again fairly quickly.
If a new license is needed it could threaten to keep the hospital closed since it would cost a few million dollars to get the facility up to new building standards for 2019.
The longtime hospital's license has been renewed every couple of years since opening in 1970.
The deadline for the most recent renewal was scheduled for Nov. 30, 2018, which was just a few weeks after the hospital closed. The actual closing date was Oct. 12, 2018.
“I guess he's taking it one step at a time,” PV City Manager James Frizell said, referring to Schuster.
“This is good news in this process. It's another step. Hopefully this will get us closer to getting the hospital back open.”
During this week's meeting the local hospital authority did approve a measure authorizing the chairman, who is Mayor Jocelyn Rushing, or vice chairman, Shirl Montgomery Milligan, to sign an application with the Oklahoma Department of Health and any other documents included in the process of trying to renew the hospital's license.
Frizell adds he and PV Police Chief Mitch McGill are currently working toward getting a long-term contract in place for an ambulance service covering Pauls Valley.