Garrard hospital strikes deal with Tennessee firm

August 13, 2003|PHIL PENDLETON

LANCASTER - After four months of negotiations, Ephraim McDowell Health will not buy financially troubled Garrard County Memorial Hospital and Long Term Care Facility. Instead, Johnson City, Tenn., based Care Centers Management Group Inc. will take over both facilities in Lancaster.

"Ephraim McDowell has terminated its offer originally proposed to buy the acute care and long-term care facilities," said Garrard hospital board Chairman Leonard Smith. "That was terminated last Wednesday."

Smith said McDowell put the Garrard boards in contact with the Tennessee group, and he said the deal was put together between 2:30 Friday afternoon and 5:30 p.m. Monday.

"Our goal was to preserve health care in Garrard County. I believe we have done that," Smith told Garrard Fiscal Court Tuesday following a meeting of the two health care boards.


The Fiscal Court concurred with the plan through a unanimous vote. "You've done a great job," Magistrate Joe Leavell told hospital board members.

According to a statement issued by Ephraim McDowell Health, McDowell CEO L. Clark Taylor, Smith and Long Term Care Facility board Chairman Ed Montgomery, "all expressed their enthusiasm for bringing Care Centers Management Group to manage and potentially acquire the Garrard County facility. Ephraim will be available to support Care Centers Management Group as they begin their leadership in Garrard County," the statement said.

Offering to pay $1.45 million

Care Centers is offering to buy the two Garrard facilities for $1.45 million, which Montgomery said will be used to help pay off over $2 million in "accounts payable." That includes money owed to vendors and the Internal Revenue Service.

A management team from Care Centers is expected to arrive later this week, Smith said.

A statement from Care Centers said the company was founded in 1988 by J.R. Randy Lewis, president, who remains active in day-to-day operations.

"CCMG has successfully operated and provided management and consulting services to nursing homes and senior adult facilities located in Tennessee, Kentucky, Florida, Texas, and Oklahoma," the statement said. It said the company's focus for future growth is in Tennessee and Kentucky.

"We have confidence we can make a difference and have a successful service and ministry to the people," said Care Centers Vice President Gary Parker.

Bankruptcy is still possible

Smith told the Fiscal Court that bankruptcy is still possible. "We have hopes that the $1.45 million may be able to avoid bankruptcy. But I am not going to tell you that you will avoid bankruptcy," Smith said. "Acute care is not economically supportive in Garrard County," he said.

Smith said Garrard County wants to have some kind of emergency room care, and that Ephraim McDowell is in discussions to bring that about.

Mary Begley, spokeswoman for McDowell, said that while Garrard County's board is responsible for the ER, she named several options for Garrard County residents to consider should they need immediate care. She mentioned the emergency rooms at Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center in Danville and Fort Logan Hospital in Stanford, both of which operate 24/7, and the immediate care center in Stanford. "We are very honored that many Garrard County residents use these facilities. We are still here for them," she said.

However, Smith and Montgomery responded to a question from a Garrard ambulance service employee during the Fiscal Court meeting that the ER at Garrard Memorial is still open. "Today you have a hospital," said Montgomery.

Facility will be called "Christian Care Center of Lancaster"

Smith said the long-term care facility will be renamed "Christian Care Center of Lancaster."

An e-mail from Care Centers Director of Legal Services and General Counsel Joel S. Hollingsworth to Smith stated that "CCCL will, upon closing, donate the hospital license to Ephraim McDowell, who will, for no fee, assist the hospital in a consultant role in winding down the hospital."

Montgomery said that "winding down" role is the one thing Ephraim McDowell agreed to do. "Their price is that 15 beds will donated to them," he said.

"Garrard County is licensed for 15 acute care beds," Begley said."They are going to allow us to use those as we explore other options for acute care," she said.

Smith believes the money from Care Centers Management Group will cover many expenses. "We want to pay off the provider tax. We've never paid that before," he said.

Individual board members' feelings are mixed about the buyout plan. Burl Cornelius said it's the best route to go. "We've made the best deal we could," he said. Brenda Powers said it's "very sad."

"I hope and pray the emergency room can find some way ... to run," she said.

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