Even though the process of trying to get Pauls Valley's hospital back open seems to be moving in slow motion one top official remains confident it's only a matter of time.
Richard Mathis of the Southern Plains Medical Group, who’s been serving as the CEO and overseeing renovations to the hospital building for more than a year, says all the signs remain positive the hospital's license to operate will soon be approved.
Mathis is referring to the Oklahoma Department of Health, more specifically the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, which has the final say on whether or not the hospital's acute care license at the time of its closure in 2018 will be deemed active again.
“I've been in contact with them daily,” Mathis said about the state health officials.
“I am expecting some sort of notification, at least a letter, soon telling us the license has been approved. I'm 99 percent sure the license will be here within 21 days,” he said, which would put it sometime later in January.
“With the voluntary contact they've had with me it tells me they want to get us back in business.”
An early step toward reopening the local hospital came a year after its closure when a health department team did a survey of the building.
From that came a total of 122 pages of deficiencies, a plan of corrections, that had to be addressed to get the structure up to the standards needed to be open again as a hospital.
Southern Plains officials reported a second state survey conducted this past November – more than two years after the closure – resulted in the state health team confirming all the items listed in the plan had been addressed.
“They're in the process of accepting and processing all the documentation we submitted with all the attachments,” Mathis said.
“They're working to complete the application for renewal; verifying the application and the associated attachments.”
He adds the process has likely been slowed down by the recent holiday season and many state employees have been working schedules alternating them from in the office and remotely from home.
For now Mathis said he's preparing for the hospital to open, while Southern Plains overall is ready to assume ownership of the building once the license is renewed.
“I'm in the process of making sure we're business ready with the supplies, support and employees needed to open and see patients,” he said.
“The first step we do with the license in hand is go back to the city. We will look at the financing and purchase of the building and its assets. We'll also assume the $500,000 debt as we take charge of ownership.”
Mathis is referring to a $500,000 line of credit which Southern Plains acquired through the city of Pauls Valley since the city still owns the hospital building.
He's also referring to an already agreed upon $5 million price tag for Southern Plains to purchase the hospital building and all the equipment inside once the hospital license is fully activated.
Another important thing on Mathis' to-do-list is contact the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
It's the CMS which is responsible for entering into agreements with operating hospitals to receive Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements.