Officials discuss steps to reopen hospital


County officials met in closed session on Wednesday to discuss next steps in the attempt to reopen the Yadkin Valley Community Hospital which closed on May 22.

A woman carries a sign showing her support for the local hospital at a prayer meeting held on the hospital grounds several days after its unexpected closure.

A special meeting of the Yadkin County commissioners was held Wednesday morning in order to discuss the ongoing issue of the recently closed Yadkin Valley Community Hospital.

“We’re meeting primarily today to talk in closed session about the hospital specifically and our options and the judge’s order and our progress under that request and options for the future,” said Chairman Kevin Austin at the start of the meeting.

Austin said they were not planning to return from the closed session to take any action Wednesday.

“I do appreciate everyone coming out and we have done our best to keep the community informed on what’s going and we’ll continue to do so, unfortunately most of our discussion today is going to have to be done in closed session,” he said.

The county had been working to find another company to operate the county-owned hospital facility for the last several months when former lessee HMC/CAH unexpectedly closed the hospital on May 22. The county learned of the impending shut down just before it occurred and filed a restraining order in an attempt to keep the hospital open through the end of the group’s lease term on July 31.

HMC/CAH defied the court order and closed down the hospital anyway, claiming in court documents that it had been evicted by local law enforcement. On June 16, Judge Terrence W. Boyle ruled in favor of the county, finding HMC/CAH in contempt of court for defying the temporary restraining order.

The county was given 30 days to submit a plan to reopen the hospital and HMC/CAH was ordered to pay financial damages to the county for the costs incurred due to the shut down.

In a brief interview with local news media prior to heading in to the closed session Wednesday morning, Austin reiterated that the purpose of the meeting was primarily to consult with County Attorney Ed Powell and County Manager Lisa Hughes to discuss strategies to reopen the hospital.

“As everyone knows, the judge has ordered us to endeavor to reopen the hospital so that’s what we’re working on, so we’re just pursuing our next steps,” he said.

Part of the process will involve technical steps that will have to be taken in regard to the hospital licensing through the Department of Health and Human Services and other agencies, Austin said. Wednesday’s closed session meeting also was to determine what additional steps would need to be taken to reopen the hospital.

“That’s why we’re meeting this morning to understand what our options are. The company [HMC/CAH] is still in the hospital, they’ve been ordered out by the judge, but they are still in the hospital today so that’s part of the issue that we’re dealing with and, of course, meeting the judge’s request for us to do everything possible to reopen the hospital.”

Austin said HMC/CAH had allowed a representative from the county into the building last week to survey the equipment, but that the group has been largely unresponsive following the recent court proceedings.

“They [HMC/CAH] are still in there dealing with the medical records which we have suggested how they would transfer those to us. We’re waiting to hear back from them, they’ve been very unresponsive,” he said.

The next meeting of the Yadkin County commissioners is slated for Monday at 9 a.m. Austin said he was unsure if the hospital situation would be on the agenda as it largely depended on the discussion from Wednesday’s closed session. Austin said as soon as new information was available on the next step in the process, that the community would be alerted.

On Wednesday afternoon following the special meeting, the county sent out a press release reminding area residents to dial 911 in emergency situations.

According to the release, “the county heard from the EMS Director that some citizens had come to the EMS outposts around the county which at times do not have staff present when they are on an emergency call. The county urges its citizens to dial 911 instead. The county will continue to maintain EMS personnel and emergency vehicles at the Yadkin Valley Community Hospital.”

The statement also said, “The Yadkin County Board of Commissioners appreciates the dedication and extra effort being put forth by their EMS paramedics, and requests the continued understanding of the citizens of the county.”

Kitsey E. Burns may be reached at 336-679-2341 or on Twitter @RippleReporterK.

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