Putnam County Memorial Hospital in jeopardy of closing its doors

The Putnam County Memorial Hospital is in jeopardy of closing its doors. The hospital's Board of Directors met Wednesday afternoon to discuss the hospital's future.

Right now, they said they're still looking into ways to keep the hospital open.

On February 10, the Board of Directors of the Putnam County Memorial Hospital released a statement, stating that the hospital was denied an affiliation with Community Health Systems Professional Services Corporation, the company that owns Northeast Regional Medical Center. The current interim CEO of Putnam County Memorial Hospital, Clifford Corbett said the board was hoping that the affiliation would help resolve some of the hospital's monetary issues but since that is now off the table, they are looking at other options.

Some of the issues the hospital is facing include a decline in patients, a decline in revenue from the state and federal government due to a change in Medicare and Medicaid payments, and outstanding debts. The hospital can house 14 patients at a time; currently, they are averaging two a day.

Corbett said the hospital owes $7 million in bond payments, which were acquired when the hospital completed renovations in 2006. Corbett said the hospital has not made a bond payment since August.

In terms of revenues and expenditures, Corbett said the hospital's expenditures are $80,000 to $100,000 more than its incoming revenues.

In addition to the current financial strains, the hospital will also have to comply with upcoming federal mandates, which will be costly. By the end of the year, Corbett said the hospital will have to make all of its medical records electronic. He estimates that will cost at least $1 million. If the hospital were able to affiliate with a larger hospital, he said it would help with the cost of the enormous task.

When asked whether they had thought about putting the issue on the ballot and asking tax payers to vote to pay more to the hospital, Corbett said that option was off the table because they're "reluctant to ask for more money from the county."

In addition to monetary issues, the hospital has had a hard time finding a full-time primary care physician. Right now, all of their doctors are part-time. Also, during the meeting, it was revealed that there is a shortage of nurses at night. The head nurse said she needs five on staff at night and right now, there are only three, due to two nurses resigning in the past two months.

Meanwhile, the Putnam County community is banding together to help save the hospital.

The Concerned Citizens of Putnam County is having a town hall meeting Sunday, Feb. 19, in the Putnam County Middle School Auditorium at at 2 p.m. Corbett is expected to make a State of the Hospital Address and the organization plans to roll out its donation campaign.

"There have been many generations that have started the hospital, who have maintained the hospital and now it is up to my generation and my parents generation to help maintain the hospital for my kids and for their kids," said Mary Knowles, a member of the Concerned Citizens of Putnam County. "If we don't band together now, it wont be here."

"We've got very good community support and that what it's going to take. They're very enthusiastic and I think that's what it takes," said Nettie Lewis, the Chairperson of the Putnam County Memorial Hospital Board of Directors.

As for how to keep the hospital open, Corbett is searching for the answer.

"We think that a very organized plan can help us get out of this situation that we're in at this point. We're just not sure what that final plan is going to look like," said Corbett.

In all, there are 71 full and part-time employees working at the hospital. If it were to close, they would all lose their jobs.

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