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Pioneer to close

The news out of Scott County last week confirmed the worst fears of many in the community – their hospital would be closing for the second time in five years.

Last week employees of Pioneer Community Hospital of Scott County were notified that the hospital would be closing, as of 8 a.m. on Sunday, June 25.

But, as of Tuesday PCHS CEO Tony Taylor informed media that the closing date had been pushed back a few days, until Friday, July 1.

No reason for the change of date was offered, but it could indicate there may be interest from another party to purchase the hospital.

The closure, while not a complete surprise, caught most employees unaware as they were informed last Thursday that the facility would be closing its doors.

Tony Taylor, CEO of the hospital, reportedly sent a letter to the Tennessee Division of Health License and Regulation stating he was informed of the closing Wednesday.

“Pioneer regrets this drastic yet necessary course of action but as it stands now Pioneer Health Services can no longer financially sustain operations,” Taylor wrote.

Just a month ago Pioneer filed paperwork with the state, notifying an intent to close the facility.

At that time the move was justified as a legal obligation, but every effort was being made to keep operations going.

Reportedly Pioneer was seeking a potential buyer to purchase the hospital, but no deal could be made to forestall the closure.

The Scott County Independent Herald reports there have been buyers who have expressed interest in the facility in recent weeks.

What is going to happen next is unclear.

The 100 employees that were still on staff were not given ample notice of the closure under the federal WARN Act, which requires a 60-day notice, and many will be eligible for severance pay from Pioneer.

Pioneer Health Services, based out of Magee, Mississippi, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy two months ago, in an effort to “stabilize operations and insure long-term viability,” and impacted four other facilities owned by the company.

At that time the patient floor at the Scott County hospital was closed, but the emergency room and other services remained in operation. A third of the staff were laid off after the filing as well.

Pioneer reached an agreement with Scott County in 2012, and reopened the hospital. Part of the agreement included a stipulation that the county could reacquire the property if Pioneer did not operate as a hospital for 10 years.

While that is possible, the county could also then be responsible for a $400,000 lien against the property for a bank loan to the hospital and a $500,000 federal tax lien from the IRS for unpaid taxes.

Pioneer will reportedly be closing five out of six hospitals under their ownership as a result of the bankruptcy.

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