In a short Feb. meeting of the Claiborne County Commission, members of the commission passed a resolution to hire a consultant to look at all options for the embattled Claiborne County Hospital and Nursing Home, including a possible lease.
Commissioner Danny Longworth sponsored the resolution, which was added to the agenda at the beginning of the Feb. 25 commission meeting.
Because of a new debt policy required by the state’s Comptroller of the Treasury, the hospital board must get the commission’s approval before financing any amount. The hospital board had asked the commission to back a $3.5 million loan the hospital needs to obtain in order to purchase a computer system to meet the federal government’s Electronic Medical Records (EMR) requirement by the Sept. 2014 deadline.
During the commission’s Jan. meeting, commissioners decided to reject the board’s request to put the loan item on the agenda. A commissioner must sponsor all agenda items, and items added after the deadline must be approved by the commission.
Some hospital board members have been frustrated by the inaction of the commission.
“We can’t move forward on the computer system — we’re in limbo,” said Bill Dunavant, a member of the hospital board, during their Feb. 19 meeting.
The hospital is currently county-owned but has a management contract with Restoration Healthcare, which placed Tim Brown in the administrator position after it won the contract from Mercy Health Partners (formerly Baptist Health Systems) almost four years ago. Brown had also served as administrator under the Baptist and Mercy management contracts. A lease or partnership could possibly change the entire system and take it out of the county’s control.
The hospital board heard from Ken Conner of Decosimo, a group in Chattanooga that specializes in assisting hospitals in the transition process, during its last meeting. The hospital board will meet on March 14 at 6 p.m. — moved from the regular date of March 19 — in order to be able to report to the commission at its March 18 meeting.
In other business, the commission approved several budget amendments for the Board of Education and a budget amendment for the Highway Department. It approved the appointment of members to an Agricultural Committee for a two-year term. The members will be Dennis Estes, Bridget Day and John Greer.
Commissioner Shawn Peters expressed concern about a rock that can be seen on the stretch of U.S. Hwy. 25E known as “River Hill,” just north of the bridge. According to Peters, it appeared that the rock might fall, endangering drivers. Peters was told that the Tenn. Department of Transportation (TDOT) had already been asked about the rock, and TDOT engineers had determined that the formation is an outcropping of rock and will not fall.
The next meeting of the County Commission is scheduled for March 18 at 6:30 p.m. in the large courtroom of the Claiborne County Courthouse.