‘It borders on being an impossible task’ | Jellico’s mayor talks challenges of keeping hospital open

Mayor Dwight Osborn said Jellico’s hospital is hopefully reopening in a matter of weeks.
Mayor Dwight Osborn said Jellico’s hospital is hopefully reopening in a matter of weeks.
Published: May. 21, 2022 at 11:03 AM EDT
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JELLICO, Tenn. (WVLT) - With the RAM clinic just down the road, Jellico Mayor Dwight Osborn reflects on a bittersweet time. Thankful that service is an option, but sad that so many people in his city need it.

“It is heartbreaking sometimes to see these people in need, especially long-term care, and dental care; you know some folks just can’t afford dental care,” said Osborn.

It’s been since November of 2020 since a patient was last seen in Jellico’s only hospital. Now the closest emergency room is in Lafollette or Corbin, which can take close to an hour to get there. Although discouraging for many, that’s soon to change, according to Osborne, as he hopes to have the hospital back open in a matter of weeks.

For the first time since the facility officially closed, Osborn sat down with WVLT News to talk about the facility’s future and what went wrong more than a year ago.

“I’m not sure what their business model was, but whatever it was, it didn’t work,” said Osborn talking about the Rennova, the last group to manage the hospital.

Osborn added that x-ray machines would be non-functional or “inferior,” and at times, emergency lab work had to be processed at other facilities because certain machines weren’t working. At the end of the day, Osborn said it came down to money and investment in the city of Jellico. Hundreds and thousands of dollars in repairs were needed to fix broken machines and water boilers that he claims Rennova didn’t have.

“It borders on being an impossible task,” said Osborn when discussing the challenges of keeping a rural hospital running. He’s seen the data of rural hospitals closing and knows it’s impacting Tennesseans, which is why they’re starting over. The city hired BOA Vida to run the hospital, and Osborn said he already sees significant improvements on the financial level and in community outreach.

Osborn said that the newly reopened facility would have a specialized unit for seniors, functional equipment, and an emergency room capable of performing surgeries, which hasn’t been an option for over a year in Jellico.

Regarding funding, the city isn’t using any taxpayer dollars to go toward the hospital. The equipment is all provided by BOA Vida, and the $150,000 used to replace broken water boilers was provided by federal grant funding.

BOA Vida and the city have entered into a 20-year contract with the hopes from Osborn of setting the facility up for success far beyond the end of the agreement.

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