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County takes control of RVHS

County commissioners took control of River Valley Health System facilities and property at midnight Wednesday, as operations officially ceased at the financially-strapped healthcare institution.

Thursday, February 01, 2001

County commissioners took control of River Valley Health System facilities and property at midnight Wednesday, as operations officially ceased at the financially-strapped healthcare institution.

"We will all continue to work on making this a viable facility," commission president Paul Herrell said after a joint meeting of commissioners and River Valley’s board of trustees.

No healthcare agency has made offers for or scheduled visits to the hospital facility, Herrell said.

"We may advertise it," he said.

On a motion from member Bruce Trent, the board voted to pay 25 percent of the vacation and holiday pay of employees of the hospital. Board member Dick Craig passed on the motion because his daughter worked at RVHS. Board member Pat Clonch voted no.

For a number of years, product and service providers, as well as contractors, have not received payment, Mrs. Clonch said.

"My feeling is they are just as worthy to collect funds as employees," she said. "Everyone has an equal right to stand in line and collect" from the receiver.

Mrs. Clonch added that she has always felt that employees should be paid for hours worked, but for anything over and above that – like not receiving benefits -the employees should also become the hospital’s creditors.

Meanwhile, commissioners voted to request a study by Lawrence County Department of Job and Family Services director Buddy Martin to determine the feasibility of using the hospital building for other purposes, such as a workforce development resource center.

Hospital board chairman Jim Weber called Wednesday’s actions the right decisions, although sad ones.

"It gives us a direction to work toward," Weber said.

The hospital’s debt now is only associated with River Valley Health System, not the facility itself, he said.

Hospital board member Wayne White said Wednesday’s meeting was a culmination of a sad series of events.

"Not just me but the entire board and the commissioners feel badly for the employees, the patients who have been in here over the years My family has been in here; I have been in here," White said.

Protecting patients, as well as making sure employees’ received unemployment and contact with future employers, have topped the board’s concerns, Mrs. Clonch said.

"I know in the past mistakes have been made," she said. "We can’t do anything to resolve those, but we will do as much as we can."