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Prospects growing for RVHS facility

Interest in the empty River Valley Health System hospital building is picking up, its court-appointed financial receiver said this week.

Sunday, August 12, 2001

Interest in the empty River Valley Health System hospital building is picking up, its court-appointed financial receiver said this week.

"We have other firms, several hospital organizations outside of the area, wanting to look at it," CPA Robert Payne said.

Specific details cannot be released, he said, but the new interest could spur quicker use of the Ironton healthcare facility, which shut down this winter due to financial difficulties.

Also, the receiver is continuing negotiations with Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital in Russell, Ky. Hospital leaders there consider the neighboring Ironton facility an expansion option.

"The former RVHS is only one of the possibilities," said Mike Stautberg, OLBH’s vice president of external affairs.

OLBH is continuing to hold internal meetings, as well as meetings with the RVHS receiver, Stautberg said.

Bellefonte has presented conceptual ideas, said Payne, who is negotiating on behalf of the county, not only with OLBH but with all parties interested in the facility.

More specific information from Bellefonte could come soon, he said.

In general, officials have three options – find someone to buy RVHS or offer enough money to pay off creditors; form a plan under the guise of receivership to reopen and run the hospital for the benefit of paying back creditors; or, third, if it’s just not economically feasible to reopen, then sell the hospital building for its debts, Payne said.

Common Pleas Court Judge Everett Burton must approve of any plans to reopen or use the RVHS facility, according to court records.

"Once we make a decision, we’re going to have to have a good plan in place," he said. "Ultimately, it’s my responsibility to the creditors, but there’s also a responsibility to the community to see what we can do to reopen it and that’s what we’re trying to do.

"I know people might think this is dragging out, but you can’t imagine the multitude of things you have to deal with, considering this was a $40 million operation and overseen by various federal regulatory agencies. We’re doing our best."

County commission president Paul Herrell said he’s watching the situation closely, and hopes to see the facility reopened soon.

"One way or another, we’re going to open that emergency room," Herrell said. "We’ve got to have it."

Meanwhile, monthly court hearings concerning RVHS debts, lawsuits filed by creditors and other issues continue.

Each month, more outstanding bills are collected in anticipation of settling accounts, Payne said.

All claims must be in by Sept. 1, then the receiver and the court will determine a method of distribution and what happens next, as far as creditors are concerned, he said.