License deadline for hospital extended

Published 3:19 pm Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The state health department has again extended a license deadline for Chilton Medical Center as court-appointed receiver Don Ball continues to review the operation’s finances.

Chilton County’s only hospital was shut down on Oct. 29 through an emergency order of the state’s top health officer. The health department set a Dec. 21 deadline for a new owner to apply for the hospital’s license to operate, but a change in ownership has yet to occur.

The Chilton County Hospital Board has a purchase agreement in place with the current owner of the hospital property, but before the transfer can take place, Ball has been appointed as receiver by the Chilton County Circuit Court to review the hospital’s finances and determine if it can be a sustainable operation.

The new state deadline of March 15, 2013, coincides with the timetable agreed upon for the hospital board to purchase the property, if the hospital is deemed viable.

Ball has brought in a team of experts to analyze the financial, legal and operational issues facing the business, hospital administrator Ted Chapin said in a release. Ball said the two most important factors in the analysis are the hospital’s debt and whether it can sustain a level of revenue that would allow it to remain viable long-term.

Once the analysis is completed, a report will be made to the hospital board, including recommendations and requirements for the possible re-opening of the hospital, according to the release. The report is expected in January 2013.

“Given the urgency of this situation, work will aggressively continue during the holidays in order to prepare a preliminary report in a timely manner,” Chapin said in the release.

A crew of more than 15 hospital employees has worked during the closure to maintain the property, respond to medical records requests and continue administrative duties.

Ball said the employees have all been working part-time and that the hospital has been able to compensate them through funds that are still being collected for past medical services provided to patients.

“The effort right now is to put together some financial projections to what it would cost to re-open the hospital on a minimal basis, probably including emergency room and outpatient surgery,” Ball said. “I am still evaluating what it would take to get the doors open. We have to make sure we can provide adequate care for patients.”

A resident of Elmore County, Ball has served as president and chief executive officer of Jackson Hospital in Montgomery. He has also served on the boards of directors of Noland Health Service, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, and the Alabama Hospital Association. He currently serves as president of the Alabama Healthcare Hall of Fame.

“We are grateful for the appointment of Don Ball,” said Allen Payton of the hospital board. “His experience with and knowledge of all aspects of the healthcare complexities is invaluable to this evaluation.”