The journey to breathe new life into Pauls Valley's hospital has taken another step with the announcement a new owner with new administration is now in place and overseeing the local facility.
It's been nearly a year since the Southern Plains Medical Center of Garvin County first opened its doors as the hospital has in more recent days been sold to Madhukar Sharma, who's involved in various health care interests in the Jacksonville, Florida area.
New acting CEO of the hospital, Kimberly Tucker, tells the PV Democrat the hope of new ownership is for the hospital to continue providing quality medical care with even more services offered in the future.
“Mr. Sharma has been in health care for 20 years. He wants this hospital to be a pillar of the community, a hospital of growth, services,” Tucker said.
“We're fresh into this transition. We're going through and figuring out the details; figuring out what we can do to be a part of the solution.
“As we progress we'll be reaching out to let the community know more about what we're doing.”
Tucker says she owns a health care company in Oklahoma City, and even used to work with a key figure in getting the hospital here back open last year.
She's referring to Mike Schuster, who was managing partner of the Southern Plains entity created to own and operate a hospital specifically in Pauls Valley.
Naturally uncomfortable with talking about the details, Schuster says it's a medical condition he's been been facing that led to his decision to sell the hospital.
“It definitely made it difficult to come down to Pauls Valley and have a bigger part in making sure everything was going the way it was supposed to,” Schuster said.
“I decided to sell the interests of the hospital.”
It was two or three months ago when Schuster says talks started with the Florida group showing an interest in buying the hospital here.
“The only change is who owns the shares of the company,” Schuster said about the status of the hospital today.
“They will assume the debts that were on the hospital and personally guaranteed by me and my group.”
Another factor appears to be the time it took for the hospital to get the full accreditation it needed after opening a year ago.
According to Schuster, it was “rough” getting certified for Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements, which is the biggest revenue piece needed for an operating hospital.
“All that cost time and money,” Schuster said. “That’s the hardest part of opening a hospital and it took a lot of time.
“But now I can say the hospital is a great operation, has good people out there, good physicians and this is a group that will provide good management.
“I think this group will be on top of everything and look to continue the plans we had in place like having surgery open soon. They will give the hospital a step up toward continuing being a viable operation.”
A fond farewell has also been given to Richard Mathis, who as CEO oversaw Southern Plains’ efforts to bring back Pauls Valley’s hospital after it closed back in 2018 for financial reasons.
“I started work here in March 2019 with the mission of helping to revive the then closed hospital,” Mathis said.
“It’s been most rewarding but most different. This has been one of the most enriching experiences of my life. I’ve resurrected a lot of hospitals and this is the most personal for me.
“It’s tough to leave. It’s literally my baby. I feel like I’ve been able to do more with less and provide the best care possible at the hospital.
“I might be gone, but I hope the best for them. I think they’ll do well in providing the best care to the community,” he said about the new ownership coming in to oversee the local facility.
Although Mathis has already started the process of finding another job, he’s quick to add he has plans to still stay close to Pauls Valley.
“I’ll still be a part of Pauls Valley. I’ll be calling this one of my homes.”