Hospital push comes to big moment

Months of work inside of Pauls Valley's closed hospital, all meant to address a lengthy list of building deficiencies, could soon be on display for a very big moment in the ongoing effort to get the facility back open to the public.

All the work has been pointing to one thing – getting the hospital's expired license fully activated so the Southern Plains Medical Group can officially step in as the new owner and operator of a hospital back open for the Pauls Valley community.

During a recent meeting of PV's hospital authority Mike Schuster of Southern Plains said the fate of the license depends on a survey, or inspection, of the hospital building by a team from the Oklahoma Department of Health, which is now scheduled for Friday, Nov. 20.

If that survey, does wind up happening and proves successful Schuster says it will lead to the hospital reopening later this year or early in 2021.

“What they'll be looking for in this resurvey is evidence that deficiencies have been corrected and deficiencies will be addressed in the future,” Schuster said.

“I believe they're going to send us a letter after the survey and I believe that letter is going to say, 'You can use your license.' We can then open it when we want to.

“Then we'll have to staff it. The minute we get that letter we're going to start hiring. Staffing, supplying and prepping the hospital will have to be done before we can put an open sign out there. If it goes well we can start the hiring process in December.

“If everything goes smooth I would say the first of the year, but to be safe I would say sometime in that 60- to 90 day-period after the survey,” he said about an actual reopening.

According to Schuster, a focus will be to hire Garvin County residents, although some personnel and department heads will be coming from the Southern Plains' facility in Chickasha.

As for local, Dr. Susan Jones has been named the hospital's chief medical officer.

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The last survey of the local hospital building came in October 2019, which was a full year after the hospital closed.

From that survey came a “plan of corrections” leading to all the renovation work over the past year, which was slowed down by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The price tag for all that work is over $1 million, which is to be paid by Southern Plains through loans and a line of credit.

“Everything that's been done has been done for hospital license 2288,” Schuster said to PV's hospital authority trustees, who are also the local city council members.

“It's important to remember that until this license is reactivated we turn to the hospital authority to approve the plans and policies of the hospital.

“Once the license is reactivated we're going to move to acquire the hospital and the assets of the hospital.

“This might be the last time that we have to come to present materials to you as hospital trustees.”

As for the progress, he says the building is “finally starting to look like a hospital.”

“I see it frequently, so when I walk through it I see boilers that are working, a ton of brand new copper valves, water lines and toilets that working.

“You'll be shocked at what it looks like in there today. This hospital looks better than 70 to 80 percent of our rural hospitals.”

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