• Last modified 1376 days ago (Dec. 24, 2018)


Hillsboro hospital's woes deepen

Staff writer

Hillsboro Community Hospital’s financial woes appear to be worsening, symptoms of a wide-ranging problem in EmpowerHMS, the company that owns the hospital.

Although Jessie Workman, chief nursing officer at HCH and the person to whom calls for the CEO are routed, did not return a call to Marion County Record, she recently told a reporter for a different newspaper that employees are being paid as much as eight days late.

Marion County Record could not confirm reports of employee layoffs at HCH.

Michael Christensen, hospital network president for Empower and interim CEO after the November resignation of Marion Regier, did not return a call.

Neither did Jorge Perez, Empower CEO.

Beverly Hutcherson, general manager of the Lauderdale County Enterprise in Ripley, Tennessee — where Empower owns Lauderdale Community Hospital — said that hospital’s employees are experiencing late paychecks and 28 layoffs have taken place.

Hutcherson said Christensen announced at a press conference Wednesday that Empower would get a loan to catch up employee payroll.

The city of Hillsboro is a landlord to HCH, which rents the parking lot from the city. The city installed blacktop and the building’s electrical service at no charge.

“Anything beyond that, I decline to comment,” city attorney Josh Boehm said.

HCH has been sued twice in just over a year in Marion County District Court.

Hutchinson-based Mobile Cardiac Care, LLC, filed a lawsuit Nov. 13 seeking $29,280 from HCH.

That amount is $16,780 in unpaid fees between April 30 and Aug. 17, and $12,500 for violating the contract by hiring an employee away from MCC.

The deadline for HCH to file an answer to MCC’s petition has passed with no answer filed. That allows MCC to file a petition seeking a default judgment in the lawsuit.

McKeeson Medical Surgical sued in November 2017 over allegedly unpaid accounts. Under the terms of the settlement reached in that case, HCH and four other hospitals owned by the same company were to pay five monthly installments of $22,700 beginning June 6.

On Sept. 13, Central National Bank was served a garnishment order for $118,741.06 allegedly still owed to McKeeson.

Jeremy Ensey, CEO of St. Luke Hospital in Marion, was dismayed to hear about HCH’s recent troubles.

“I am truly sorry to hear Hillsboro Hospital is having financial difficulties,” Ensey said. “They have long provided great care for their community and to the county. I have worked with and know several employees at HCH, and they are some of the best.

“Our two hospitals play a key role in our county’s economy. According to a 2017 study published by Kansas Hospital Association, the two hospitals in Marion County employ 180 employees and have a total impact on area employment of 231 jobs. Health care in Marion County is not only needed for the health and well-being of our communities, but to enhance our economic opportunity.”

EmpowerHMS also owns Oswego Community Hospital, Oswego. The 12-bed hospital employs over 50, said CEO Bill Cochran.

“At this point our employees are paid every two weeks on time,” Cochran said. “We have seen reduced reimbursement rates.”

Cochran said employees are paid by direct deposit issued by Empower.

An immense number of lawsuits have been filed against EmpowerHMS in state and federal courts around the country.

The company operates four hospitals in Oklahoma, including Haskell County Community Hospital, Stigler, Oklahoma; Drumright Regional Hospital, Drumright, Oklahoma; Fairfax Community Hospital, Fairfax, Oklahoma; and Prague Community Hospital, Prague, Oklahoma.

Latimer County General Hospital in Wilburton, Oklahoma, owned by Empower, closed abruptly Oct. 1 because of financial troubles. In that closure, 130 people lost their jobs.

According to KWTV in Oklahoma City, Prague city council members recently voted in an emergency meeting to explore all options regarding taking legal action against Empower.

Hospital employees have said they are not being paid, many of their medical insurance policies have lapsed, and the hospital faces medical supply shortages, KWTV reported.

Employees of the other three Empower-owned Oklahoma hospitals are widely reported saying their wages and health insurance are not being paid also.

KOTV in Tulsa reported Empower is under federal investigation by the Department of Labor.

In Missouri, Empower operates Fulton Memorial Hospital in Fulton, Missouri, and I-70 Community Hospital in Sweet Springs, Missouri.

Additionally, Empower operates Washington County Hospital in Plymouth, North Carolina; De Queen Medical Center, De Queen, Arkansas; and Lauderdale Community Hospital, Ripley, Tennessee.

Marty Bachman, editor of the De Queen Bee newspaper, said he also has heard of layoffs and delayed paychecks at the local hospital, but has not been able to investigate the matter.

Last modified Dec. 24, 2018