RVHS officials eye gradual shutdown

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 18, 2001

River Valley Health System’s 400 to 415 employees will be phased out of work as the hospital shutdown proceeds.

Thursday, January 18, 2001

River Valley Health System’s 400 to 415 employees will be phased out of work as the hospital shutdown proceeds.

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Few employees will spend their last day at the hospital this week, even though the hospital stopped accepting admissions Wednesday, less than a day after the board of trustees voted to shut down, interim CEO Dr. John Ross said.

"The last day of patient care operations will be Jan. 27," he said.

It is considered a permanent shutdown, he added.

Which departments feel job cuts first remains undetermined, but RVHS will follow Ohio Hospital Association guidelines on phasing out work, Dr. Ross said.

Two clinics operated by RVHS – at Aid and Wheelersburg – might remain open after the shutdown.

"They may be transferred to other ownership but that’s yet to be determined," he said.

River Valley will begin working immediately with area hospitals concerning the 60 patients currently in the hospital.

"The majority of our patients will be discharged as they normally would be," Dr. Ross said, adding the hospital will accept no new patients.

The process is part of an "orderly shutdown" meant to make it easier and safer for both healthcare provider and recipient, he said.

The shutdown became evident late last week and over the weekend, after officials heard additional information and began pouring over financial documents.

"We reviewed cash flow projections then came to a decision," Dr. Ross said. "Looking at that, I felt we need to have an orderly shutdown."

There was only sufficient cash to make Friday’s payroll, enough to make payroll two weeks from now, and no financial assistance on the horizon, he said.

Frequent meetings in the last several weeks with Lawrence County commissioners, state and federal legislators and attorneys focused on financial help – such as loans or debt reduction – but no action has been taken.

"We’ve worked on this for over a month and everywhere we turn, it says the county can’t spend taxpayer money up there," commission president Paul Herrell said.

The hospital tried selling land but, because the county owns all land and buildings of RVHS, state law requires the sale proceeds to go into the county general fund, Herrell said.

"If we put that money into the hospital, it could make us liable for (a hospital debt of) $17 million," he said. "A debt of that magnitude would put the county in jeopardy."

Still, the county and RVHS trustees will continue to work on keeping the hospital open, Herrell said.

"If it doesn’t, I’d say we’d be interested in selling," he said.

Also, discussions have taken place between River Valley and Genesis Hospital System, which operates St. Mary’s and Cabell-Huntington, but there has been no decision.

"We needed to be more financially stable and they’re discussing with Logan," which has its own financial problems, Dr. Ross said.

"I can see where they would not want to."

Taking everything into consideration, there was just not enough cash flow to hang on any longer, Dr. Ross said.

Dr. Ross said assistance from the state level – like the hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants received by new industries such as Liebert Corp. – would have been welcome, especially to save 400 jobs.

"We certainly would have liked additional help, but I won’t begrudge a good thing that happens to the community," he said.