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Commission wonders about RVHS audit

While they're happy that Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital has purchased the old River Valley Health System building, Lawrence County Commissioners are left with a lingering question -- where did all the money go?

When the hospital closed its doors in late January, 2001, the commission asked the FBI to conduct a federal audit of the hospital's finances to determine why it was $17-18 million in debt. They have yet to hear back from the bureau. Thursday, commissioners agreed to send the FBI a letter asking for a status report.

"Just because Our Lady of Bellefonte bought the hospital doesn't mean we don't need to know where the money went," Commissioner Paul Herrell said. "Eighteen million dollars. Now that's just wrong. We need to know who's responsible."

Herell said he was "told by somebody who should know" that at one time, more than $1 million in bills was never sent out.

Commissioner George Patterson said at one point before the hospital closed, RVHS officials came to the county asking for $500,000 to meet payroll.

"If they had dealt with those issues, they wouldn't have had to come here and ask the county for money," he said.

Herrell said the county has the right to know what happened, and if there was wrongdoing, someone should pay.

"Eighteen million dollars?" Herrell said. "No one should get in that kind of debt. Somebody should fry over that."

"Probably more than one," Patterson added.

Copies of the letter will be sent to the Ohio State Auditor's Office, the Ohio Attorney General's Office, as well as to the area's elected officials, so they may also keep up on the matter.

"We're in agreement on this," Commission President Jason Stephens said. "If something went wrong at River Valley, we want the feds to investigate and we want to know what went on." Teresa Moore/The Ironton Tribune