Emergency Meeting Held On Winston County Hospital Closure

by | Nov 24, 2017 | County News, Legislators, Politics, Winston

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Curae Health, a not-for-profit rural healthcare company out of Clinton, TN, announced via press release last Friday they would CLOSE the Lakeland Community Hospital in Haleyville by the end of 2017.

Curae Health, Inc. gave only 44 days notice of closing to the public.

Lakeland Community Hospital is a Level III Trauma Center with 59 beds located at 42024 Highway 195 East in Haleyville.

It is formerly known as the Burdick-West Hospital. The facility is the only hospital in all of Winston County.

As a result of the Curae Health’s corporate decision to close, residents of Winston County are left without a local medical center.

In the company’s press release, Debbie Pace, CEO of Lakeland said:

“Our team explored every viable option to avoid closing the hospital. Unfortunately, as with many other rural health care facilities in the Southeast, we are unable to continue operations due to such drastic reductions in reimbursements.”

Curae Health owns/operates the hospitals in Winfield, Haleyville, and Russellville.

According to Alabama House District 14 Representative Tim Wadsworth (R) of Arley, no requests for governmental help or assistance were made by Curae Health to the Mayor of Haleyville, the Haleyville City Council, Winston County elected officials, State Senators, State Representatives, or the US Congressman – Robert Aderholt – whose home is Haleyville.

Wadsworth posted on his web page Wednesday about an emergency meeting at Haleyville City Hall. The goal of the gathering focused on obtaining information from the head of the Curae Health.

Wadsworth sought details on the reasons for the closure and to address options to either prevent the end of the hospital or at least extend its final closing, so patients could have ample time to secure other medical options.

The usually even keel Wadsworth came out of the meeting unimpressed by Curae’s move to close Lakeland:

“When groups invest in a community and the community invests back into the hospital mutual respect to employees, doctors, business, citizens, elected officials and the community is expected.

 

The closure affects employees, patients, and critical care. Curae Health giving 44 days is NOT respect.

 

The combined effort by all officials in Winston County is critical now to maintaining our rural hospital. These officials will put forth full effort.”

At least one potential purchaser of Lakeland attended the meeting. A change in hospital ownership – before the end of the year – could be accomplished by the issuance of a certificate of need by the existing hospital board … assuming the potential buyer wishes to proceed with an acquisition immediately.

However, if the hospital does close, it will have to be reinspected by the health department and may have to be brought up to a higher level of standards. Such a situation could push away potential buyers due the costs and logistics involved. A forever closing would almost certainly be assured.

This appears to be why Curae’s short fuse, new release method of informing the public – particularly during holidays – has left Wadsworth and other Winston County officials very concerned and calling emergency meetings seeking rapid resolutions.

USDA Loan Terms Appear Violated + Other Hospitals Recently Purchased by Curae

Curae Health bought three hospitals including Lakeland-Haleyville effectively on January 1, 2015 in the amount of $5,000,000 as part of United States Department of Agriculature (USDA) loan. The terms of that loan assured the USDA that Curae would maintain all services and employees. The closure of the Lakeland facility would appear to be a violation of the terms of that loan agreement.

Also very curiously, Curae Health, Inc. purchased a hospital in Clarksdale, Mississippi on November 2, 2017.

How Winston County Patients Be Affected By The Closure

Here is one simple example:

Let’s assume a person lives in the Heart of Double Springs. The distance and average drive time to Lakeland Community Hospital is 16.9 miles (22 minutes).

With the closing of Lakeland in Haleyville, patients’ ‘local’ hospital option shift to municipalities outside of Winston County.

These are the closest Level III Trauma Centers with generally equivalent services to Lakeland:

Walker Baptist Medical Center – 267 beds
Level III Trauma Center
26.8 miles – 35 minutes
(Jasper)

Russellville Hospital
Level III Trauma Center – 100 beds
34.0 miles – 43 minutes
(Russellvile)

Cullman Regional
Level III Trauma Center – 145 beds
42.1 miles – 53 minutes
(Cullman)

Parkway Medical Center
Level III Trauma Center – 120 beds
42.2 miles – 55 minutes
(Hartselle)

With the closure of Lakeland, the above hospitals will likely see an increase in patient admissions from Winston County.

Rural hospitals across Alabama continue to fall by the wayside. Lakeland’s closures will be the seventh hospital closure in the past eight years. Only Texas, with nine hospital closures, has seen more.

In their press release, Lakeland officials blamed such things as a). Reduced reimbursements from the government and b). Commercial insurers for taking a “tremendous toll on rural hospitals across the nation.”

Curae Health claims their inability to obtain reimbursements made it impossible to overcome deficits.

Winston County has a population of 23,500 to 24,000 people, Haleyville has around 4,000 residents. The entire area will be affected beyond the negative impact on patients of Lakeland.

Almost 100 hospital employees will lose their jobs during the holiday season, many support service vendors will lose income with no primary customer, and medical professionals of all types will have to scramble to make other employment arrangements.

The cascade effect from this hospital closure will be substantial.

In their press release, Curae Health indicated employees would be given priority to fill open positions at other area hospitals in the same network and employees will be assisted in identifying other healthcare entities in the area when seeking employment.

Lakeland Community Hospital

Emergency Meeting Held On Winston County Hospital Closure

Timothy Collins

Timothy brings an insightful holistic perspective as well as a mountain man tenacity to his various roles at Cullman Today. You can reach him at cullmantoday@gmail.com.

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