Status of hospital unclear

Published 4:13 pm Tuesday, December 11, 2018

By Jeremy Weldon

The fate of the Panola Medical Center remains unclear this week, but the picture should begin to clear next week when the deadline for bids for the hospital is passed, and proposals are received by the bankruptcy court handling the matter for Curae Health in Nashville.

The Panola County Board of Supervisors and the Batesville Mayor and Board of Aldermen discussed the bankruptcy this week, but both of those boards are essentially waiting for news the same as the hospital employees.

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What was learned this week is that the West Campus, the most profitable part of the Panola Medical Center, was apparently used as collateral for part of the purchase of the Clarksdale hospital, seriously hindering efforts by the court to get competitive bids for the local facility.

Dr. Michael Havens talked with both the supervisors and aldermen this week, saying he is not personally interested having ownership of the hospital again, but wants the employees to keep their jobs and the county’s residents to have a local health care option.

Havens said he had offered $3 million for the hospital earlier this year before the bankruptcy was officially filed, but Curae rejected the offer. SInce then, the best offer the court has been able to get is a reported $2.5 million from an investment group that includes an Oxford attorney, a DeSoto County physician, and another doctor located in a northern state.

It is not known if those investors are aware of the $5 million loan made on the West Campus of the Batesville hospital to finance the Clarksdale deal, and whether that debt will change their bid. The bankruptcy court is charged with deciphering what amount of the total debt belongs to which facility.

The group that operates the Tupelo hospital has reportedly reached an agreement to buy the Amory hospital if the court will remove the major part of the debt currently being serviced by that facility.

In Clarksdale, the Coahoma County Board of Supervisors is using a $30 million reserve fund created years ago for such situations, to keep that hospital afloat, but all indications are that money will not last long. There are currently no reported investors interested in taking over that hospital, which is said to be losing $75,000 each week.

Panola Medical Center operates efficiently, Havens said, and has profits of about $30,000 a week, unless the debt on the West Campus is factored into the equation. With that $5 million loan considered, the hospital is much less attractive to potential buyers.

City and county officials are scheduled to meet again next week to further discuss the future of the hospital.