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Negotiations for RVHS site continue

County officials met with one medical company this week about reopening the defunct RVHS facility and expect a proposal from another next week, as a stalemate over an offer from Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital continues.

Thursday, October 18, 2001

County officials met with one medical company this week about reopening the defunct RVHS facility and expect a proposal from another next week, as a stalemate over an offer from Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital continues.

"We did receive an offer (from Bellefonte), which was discussed with the judge and major creditors," court-appointed receiver Bob Payne said.

The offer "wasn’t enough" and that was made known to them, Payne said.

Mike Stautberg, vice president of external affairs at OLBH, said hospital leaders were awaiting written notice about the court’s decision on the offer and many issues were still on the table.

"Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital made an extremely generous offer to purchase the former River Valley facility," Stautberg said in a hospital statement this morning.

"We’re not able to discuss further details until further dialog is arranged with the receiver concerning the the offer made," he said. "OLBH is committed to providing expanded healthcare services to Ironton and the Lawrence County community."

The court – which now has control over RVHS and its debts – received OLBH’s offer verbally during a Sept. 6 conference call. The county has been negotiating a deal for months.

Bellefonte was told to send a written offer which had not been received by the Sept. 21 court report, but the proposal seemed unacceptable because it "would not even cover priority debts," that report stated.

Sources said the offer was about $5 million, although neither side would confirm that figure.

Apparently, there also have been questions of whether or not the RVHS facility meets up-to-date standards.

Stautberg saud he could not discuss specifics, but added that parts of the building are so old that they’re not as usable as they could be. The whole issue depends on how the facility is used and there are still a lot of variables that need to be discussed, he said.

"If OLBH is not able to deliver further services through the former RVHS facility, we will develop other approaches and locations to deliver the needed care and services elsewhere in the community," Stautberg said in the hospital’s statement.

Even though the Bellefonte deal seems at a stalemate, that doesn’t mean dealing has stopped there or with others.

There are other leads, Payne said, adding that the idea of reopening RVHS looks positive.

Another medical group came in Wednesday to look over the hospital and talk to a county commission committee appointed for such purposes, he said.

That group would either manage the hospital for the county or purchase it, Payne said.

"And we will get another proposal next week," he said.

The issue of reopening RVHS, which major creditors encourage, remains complex, especially to come up with a plan agreeable to everyone, Payne added.

META Associates Inc., a group of engineers that have experience with hospitals, was hired to analyze startup needs and costs.

The company estimated that it would take $700,000 to $800,000 for the first six to eight months. And,

META suggested over the next five years that a company would need to invest about $6.8 million in the facility, although work could be done in phases, Payne said.

If a company reopens the facility, it still could take months of market studies and other preparation, he said.

"Hopefully, before the end of the year, we hope to have a plan of action on reopening" or giving up and selling it, Payne said.

Meanwhile, the receiver’s focus on creditors’ claims continues with the court, which must decide how and when claims – which total $19 million, according to court records – will be paid.


Others interested in former RVHS facility

At least three other medical groups have expressed interest in the former RVHS facility, which closed in January because of poor finances.

The September report of court-appointed receiver Bob Payne to Judge Everett Burton listed the interest in the hospital and its properties.

"Work is continuing with Southern Ohio Medical Center regarding potential leasing of Portsmouth Receiving," stated the report, which was filed Sept. 21.

"We are awaiting a proposal from Quorum regarding the possibility of reopening the hospital. Brim bowed out. American Medical Trust may be interested in a purchase."

Quorum Health Group Inc., which owns and operates acute care hospitals and local and regional healthcare systems nationwide, was acquired earlier this year by Triad Hospitals Inc.

Quorum Health Resources, LLC, of Tennessee, a subsidiary, is the nation’s largest manager of not-for-profit hospitals and also provides consulting services to hospitals, its Internet Web page stated.

Brim is a national hospital management company, specializing in work with hospital boards and administrators on action plans, its Web page stated.