River West updates operations

Staff reports

The following press release was released Monday by River West:

Owners of River West Medical Center, Shiloh Healthcare, announced today that the hospital will continue to be managed in the ordinary course of business.

The judge in the Involuntary Bankruptcy case brought against the hospital did not appoint a trustee, and the medical center’s management will continue to runt he hospital.

Further hearings on the matter are scheduled for March 20, including the determination as to whether the hospital can be forced into Chapter 11 reorganization and whether a trustee should be appointed. Management has agreed to seek court approval for payments made outside the ordinary course of business. The court also ordered pursuant to a mandatory statute that the United States Trustee, an arm of the U.S. Department of Justice that regulates the bankruptcy system, appoint a patient care ombudsman to assure the proper care of any patients currently in the hospital.

Like many small community hospitals, River West has had a history of financial challenges over the past several years and was a target for closure last fall. The current owners were able to halt the scheduled closing of the facility by purchasing the hospital operations in September of 2007. Operations were beginning to see positive momentum when Hurricane Gustav hit in September of 2008.

The owners are working diligently with insurance providers to recoup financial losses suffered as a result of the hurricane.  The hospital has received only a portion of the final settlement due. River West also sought disaster relief funds through the Small Business Assn. (SBA). However, during the application process it was determined that the operation would not qualify for relief assistance because of the size of its operation and the business segment in which it fell.

The hospital was severely damaged and was unable to operate. Basic services were stored relatively quickly but inpatient and surgical services were significantly impaired for a number of months. During this period of a reduction of patient volume the hospital managed to retain almost all of its approximately 200 employees. Less that ten positions were eliminated due to losses incurred by the hurricane. The reduced number of patients and the effort to keep the entire workforce employed has created financial problems for the hospital. To alleviate the problem, some hospital departments will downsize to match the current patient demand. Some departments may temporarily cease operations due to lack of current need. These temporary operational changes should allow River West to complete the repairs to its physical plant and maintain the cash flow needed to keep the hospital open.

River West Medical Center continues to rebuild and care for patients. The Emergency Department is open and fully staffed. The facility will remain a safer environment for its patients as well be verified by the appointed patient care ombudsman. As repairs are completed, insurance reimbursements received, and patient volumes increase, hospital management will begin reviewing downsized departments and discontinued services and will reinstate these services as demand requires.