Remember the old lady in the shoe?

Published 4:41 pm Monday, December 10, 2018

By Jeremy Weldon


Some days and weeks are mundane, and some are not. This was not a mundane week in Batesville by any account.

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Both the Board of Supervisors and the City Board heard an update about the hospital situation from local physician Dr. Michael Havens early in the week. The picture can rightfully be called “bleak” and there is much work to be done before Panola County residents can be sure the hospital is going to remain open and functioning.

Dr. Havens repeatedly said he doesn’t want to own the hospital again. He and others have over the years been owners of record, and some observers thought the hospital’s recent woes and bankruptcy sale would attract the doctor to once again buy the hospital.

Havens wasn’t under oath at Tuesday’s meeting of the city aldermen when he said he doesn’t want to own the hospital again, and I wonder if he might be tempted to get back into that business, especially as we learn more about the bankruptcy filings and try to guess what the judge is going to rule.

The judge in Nashville has to decide how much of the current owners’ debt can be wiped out in the bankruptcy. Almost $95 million is owed between the Amory, Batesville, and Clarksdale hospitals and the judge will decide what debt goes where and how to find a balance to help the major creditor recoup some of its money while keeping the hospitals attractive to investors.

The Clarksdale hospital, it seems, will be taken out of the equation. Havens said he found court filings indicating that Amory and Clarksdale hospitals both generated $30,000 profits each week (almost $35,000 for Amory) while Clarksdale was losing $75,000 a week.

Officials are hoping the court will allow Clarksdale to be cut out of the equation, because it’s nothing but an albatross at this point. This solution is complicated by the fact that we found out this week some shenanigans were involved with the original Curae Health purchase of the Batesville hospital. It’s a tangled web, for sure, and Havens rightfully called it a train wreck.

The kink in hose involves the West Campus of Panola Medical Center. When the hospital was sold, the new owners needed cash to complete the purchase of the Clarksdale hospital. We are still wading through documents, but it looks like the sellers used a quit claim deed to give the West Campus portion of the Batesville hospital to the new owners who promptly borrowed $5 million to complete the Clarksdale deal.

We dug around a little and found out the West Campus is where all the profit is for Panola Medical Center. So the best thing we had to offer to investors interested in our hospital, and the many jobs that are there, is the main facility. The West Campus, which makes all the money, is tied up with another deal, and to get it a new investor would immediately be saddled with a nearly $45,000 monthly note.

Basically we now have a hospital that nobody is going to want to operate, and who can blame them? All the profit would be eaten up by a note for something that is already underwater in Clarksdale.

Then we find out that Serta Simmons has plans to pull out of Batesville where they have manufactured mattresses for three decades. This is more than 125 good employees getting some bad news at Christmas. There are efforts underway to save the plant, but it doesn’t seem like corporate officials are paying much attention so far.

On a good note, the Christmas Parade was terrific and the weather was perfect – cold, but not frigid and no rain. Enid Lake Baptist Church did a great job organizing the event and we hope to see the parade continue to thrive.

Thinking about the parade, does anyone else remember the “Old Lady in the Shoe” float that used to be in all the area parades? It was neat attraction and always got lots of comments. Frank Gurley told me this week that he owned “The Shoe” and had paid $15,000 for it in the mid-80s.

Frank said he bought it from a woman in Texas who had it built as a small shop, intending to sell porcelain dolls there. Her supplier in Korea stopped sending the dolls and she had to close up and put the shoe up for sale. Frank got it for parades and such and kept it until a tornado destroyed it almost three years ago.

The shoe was well built, had adequate space inside and was even air-conditioned he said. I liked all the floats in our parade, but none were cool as the old shoe. I wish it were still around.

Now, near deadline on Thursday, I’ve just heard that Ace Cannon has died. Can this week get any worse? Ace has lots of connections in Panola County, including having recorded a version of his famous “Tuff” here with Steve McGregor.

In summary, the hospital is in serious trouble, Serta is taking its sheep and leaving town, the Shoe float is gone for good, and now Ace Cannon has hung up his sax for the last time. Mercy.