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Hospital studies could last months

Court-ordered studies of the former River Valley Health System could take until March to complete, while Bellefonte leaders – the only ones to make an official offer for the defunct county hospital – say they’re growing impatient.

Thursday, December 20, 2001

Court-ordered studies of the former River Valley Health System could take until March to complete, while Bellefonte leaders – the only ones to make an official offer for the defunct county hospital – say they’re growing impatient.

"We just have to determine what is best in terms of the creditors and the people who would be served," said CPA Bob Payne, the court-appointed financial receiver over River Valley.

Quorum Health Group Inc., which owns and operates acute care hospitals and local and regional healthcare systems nationwide, is in town now doing a "viability study," after the court approved the move last month.

That study could take 60 to 90 days, then must be considered by Judge Everett Burton, Payne said.

The study will spell out whether or not reopening the hospital can be done, how it might be achieved and answer questions by not only the county but also by its citizens, he added.

Everybody wants a hospital but the goal of the receivership, which is governed by the court, is to find the best way to do it for creditors and future healthcare users, Payne said.

Meanwhile, Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital continues to wait on an answer to its September offer to purchase the RVHS facility, said Mike Stautberg, vice president of external affairs.

Bellefonte has not received a formal written response, and the offer still stands, Stautberg said.

"But, Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital is getting impatient because we’re anxious to expand services," he said.

Stautberg called Bellefonte’s offer "extremely generous," but declined to discuss details.

Payne said this summer that the offer was discussed with the court, county and creditors. A September report in Lawrence County Common Pleas Court, however, said the offer seemed unacceptable because it "would not even cover priority debts."

The Bellefonte offer has not been accepted or rejected, as officials want to wait on the viability study, Payne said this week.

"I think it’s to reassure in everybody’s mind, from an outside source, whether or not it can be done," he said, meaning reopening the hospital.

Officials might know if reopening the hospital is workable before the study’s completed, but the timing hinges on the court, he added.

Meanwhile, Stautberg said Bellefonte leaders are getting ready to move forward on alternatives for expansion, if they don’t hear something "soon" on the 3-month-old offer for RVHS.

Since its offer in September, OLBH said it would continue to investigate other sites in Ohio to expand healthcare services.

This fall, county officials have also met with several other medical companies, including Quorum, American Medical Trust, Brim and a group of local doctors. Proposals have been received but officials won’t discuss details.

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

That company estimated it would take $700,000 to $800,000 for the first six to eight months – with a possible $6.8 million over the next five years.