Commission discusses latest Scott County hospital proposal

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HUNTSVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - When Scott County's only hospital closed its doors, no one knew how long they would stay locked.

Another obstacle popped up when they couldn't reach an agreement with SM Promen, which meant the time line to re-open was pushed back even further.

Just last week, the county's mayor told us that they were back to square one to get the hospital back open in the area with the highest unemployment rate.

"All of the employment in this county is dried up. And without this hospital, you can't attract industry, it makes it very difficult for jobs and people looking for jobs here," said Steve Leeds, the hospital's former Pharmacy Director.

Three different groups reached out to Scott County immediately after the exclusive window closed: Restoration Healthcare, a collaboration of local doctors, and Pioneer Health.

The county commission met on Monday for a special called meeting.

They discussed the asset purchase description laid out by Pioneer Health, and in just about 20 minutes, voted that it would be the next provider up for discussion.

"Due to their history with the county, what they know, what their time line is in getting the doors open which is what we're after at this point," said Mayor Tibbals.

If and when an agreement is reached, it would take two months to re-open the hospital.

In the first 45 days, many essential departments (Radiology, Pharmacy, Respiratory) would be re-opened, and around 25 employees would be hired.

In the last two weeks, the rest of the departments (Medical, Nursing, Dietary) will be opened.

The only ones not included were the ER, which will open later, and the OB/GYN department. A representative from Pioneer told the commissioners they are optimistic an OB/GYN would be on staff, but don't have it set in stone yet.

"There are some code problems that we'll have to deal with but any operator that comes in whether its Pioneer or Restoration Healthcare, anybody's gonna have to deal with. Hopefully they're minor and not so expensive," said Tibbals.

The former pharmacy director, Steve Leeds, hopes to get re-hired once the hospital is back in business, but says he just wants people to get help again.

"My main hope is that we'll get a hospital here in Scott County that will treat the patients here, keep them here, keep the ones we can treat here," said Leeds.

Under the agreement, Pioneer Health would purchase the building for $100 from the county. The provider would operate the facility for ten years, and if it defaults, the hospital goes back to the county.

Mayor Tibbals says the commission will meet in another special meeting next Monday, and vote on whether to agree to terms of an exclusive letter of intent with Pioneer.

He says if they avoid any problems, the hospital could re-open as soon as July.