A federal judge ruled last week that the county will receive about $150,000 from the former operator of Yadkin Valley Community Hospital.
By Taylor Sisk
A federal judge for the Eastern District of North Carolina last week ruled that the former operator of the Yadkin Valley Community Hospital must pay $36,080 in costs and $112,012 in attorneys’ fees to Yadkin County for closing the hospital when a temporary restraining order was in effect.
Judge Terrence Boyle ruled in June of last year that HMC/CAH Consolidated Inc., the Missouri-based former operator of Yadkin Valley Community Hospital, and its parent company, CAH Acquisition Company 10 LLC, must pay the county for expenses incurred from the date the hospital was shut down, May 22 of last year, till it should reopen, but not to exceed July 31 of last year. That’s the date the contract between the county and CAH was due to expire.
Expenses included around-the-clock EMT personnel, maintenance costs, attorney and consultant fees and employee compensation.
In November, CAH filed a countersuit against the county, asking for a minimum of $75,000. It also requested a jury trial.
“We are very pleased with the Court’s decision awarding these damages to the County,” Yadkin County Board of Commissioners Chairman Kevin Austin said in a statement. “This means that the citizens of the County will not have to bear the costs of a significant portion of this litigation against the illegal actions of the former hospital operator.
“We look forward to seeing all of these problems far behind us in the rear view mirror as the County moves toward a much improved healthcare system for our people.”
The hospital is located in Yadkinville, about 30 miles west of Winston-Salem. Though a primary care practice is now open within the hospital, it otherwise remains closed.
A ‘legacy’ facility
Last week, the board of commissioners voted to send a letter to the state Department of Health and Human Services requesting that the hospital be declared a “legacy medical care facility” in accordance with a bill passed by the General Assembly during its last session.
This designation is for facilities that have been in operation within the past 24 months but been closed for at least six months. It provides a 36-month exemption from a lengthy and expensive review process.
Austin said that while welcoming that 36-month cushion, “we expect to have an excellent medical service provider in the facility in far less time than that.”
In August, the county signed agreements with two firms to explore the financial and structural viability of reopening the hospital.
The commissioners reported in October that they’d received the firms’ reports and were “very pleased” with the findings.
“While there is still work to do to re-open the facility, or even parts of the facility, the Commissioners are very excited with the opportunities for revitalizing health services in Yadkin County for the citizens,” a press release at the time stated.
The county has been exploring several options for operation of the hospital, including with Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital in nearby Elkin.
County Manager Lisa Hughes said in October that she expected that the hospital would reopen “little by little, adding different services and making sure, financially, that it’s going like we want and need it to go until we get back to the point where we do have it fully reopened as a hospital.”
Yadkin Valley Community is among three hospitals to close in North Carolina small towns in less than two years. Vidant Pungo Hospital in Belhaven was closed in February of 2014 and Franklin Medical Center in Louisburg shut down in October.[box style=”2″]This story was made possible by a grant from the Winston-Salem Foundation to examine issues in rural health in North Carolina. [/box]