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County dealing with hospital debt

As county leaders continue negotiating with healthcare companies – intent on reopening the former River Valley facility – the court and its financial expert are preparing to deal with the defunct hospital’s debt.

Friday, October 19, 2001

As county leaders continue negotiating with healthcare companies – intent on reopening the former River Valley facility – the court and its financial expert are preparing to deal with the defunct hospital’s debt.

"Nobody denies the debt," said court appointed receiver Bob Payne, CPA. "It’s now an issue of priority and how to pay it back."

Lawrence County Common Pleas Court, which has the decision-making power now that RVHS is in financial receivership, will come up with the repayment plan. Visiting Judge Everett Burton is hearing the case.

The receiver spent much of the spring and summer collecting claims, which now total $19 million according to the latest court reports.

Little League, newspapers and radio stations, scientific equipment vendors, CPAs, computer companies, health labs, employees and vendors filed 30-pages of claims in court.

Several area doctors have claimed anywhere from $50,000 to $150,000 are owed them. For example: Tri-State Physicians Network’s claim totals $286,465.67; Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital filed 33 claims, the largest of which is $55,145; King’s Daughters claims more than $45,000; American Red Cross Blood Services claims $34,987.50.

Some employee and administrator claims are more than $10,000 each, and several area banks claim hundreds of thousands apiece.

The Ohio Department of Mental Health claims it’s owed more than a million dollars.

And, the $3.3 million claimed by Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation is a worst case scenario submitted by the state, Payne said.

It’s likely only a few hundred thousand dollars are owed, he said.

So, the court will spend fall and winter coming up with a plan to pay those claims, but several issues complicate matters, Payne said.

People interpret the employee handbook differently on how much their owed; and there’s a question still over whether RVHS owns all the property in its name or not, he said.

There is also an issue with the federal government, which claims the $4.2 million owed to the USDA for lab construction and other revenue bonds has priority over all other debts, he added.

If the government’s right, there could be a long wait for employees and vendors because there’s not enough cash to pay everything, Payne said.

"I don’t know how the court will rule," he said.

The goal remains to reopen the hospital – and that’s a goal which all commissioners, attorneys, hospital committee members and others have been working hard on, commission president Paul Herrell said.

"We’re meeting with somebody at least once a week," he said. "The opportunities are unbelievable."

Bellefonte is interested in the facility, and there has been two companies in the last two weeks looking; doctors want out of West Virginia because malpractice insurance is three times higher there than here; and a new bridge and power plants will boost the local economy, Herrell said.

"We understand it needs a facelift and boilers, but we have assurances it’s state of the art," he said. "What we need to do is get this up and going."