A hospital in Walker County is vital

The Walker County Hospital District’s plan to assume operations at Huntsville Memorial Hospital progressed again in an emergency meeting Tuesday, after the district’s board unanimously approved loan agreements with CNH Finance. 

The revolving loan agreement was the final step in a two month process to close on a $7.8 million public acquisition of the local acute care facility.

Hospital district chairman Anne Karr Woodard stated that an official closing could happen as early as today, with a near-$1.2 million DSRIP payment coming to whichever entity controls the hospital’s bank account Friday morning. The Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment (DSRIP) program incentivizes hospitals and other providers to improve access to care and how care is delivered, targeting Medicaid enrollees and low income uninsured individuals.

“There is not doubt that money is going to be extremely tight moving forward,” Woodard said after an hour-long executive session. “We are told everyday to do something and keep this hospital open ... we hear that and understand that, but it’s not going to be easy. But, there is a better than average chance that we can make a success of this and have this hospital grow and flourish for years to come.”

Included in the acquisition will be a partnership between the hospital district and Plano-based health care provider Community Hospital Corporation, who previously served as the hospital’s operator in the 2000s.

“I’ve already seen some of the things they (CHC) are trying to do in order to facilitate the changes that need to be made,” district board member Dr. Curtis Montgomery said. “I feel confident that they are willing to work with us, but it is going to take a lot of staff and community support. We are all working together to make this hospital a better place.”

The hospital’s parent board, the Walker County Hospital Corporation, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in November 2019. The sale of substantially all assets owned by the private hospital corporation to the taxpayer-funded hospital district was approved by Judge David R. Jones of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas on Dec. 30, 2019.

“There is no doubt that we need a hospital, and the probability figures are better than what I thought they would be,” district board member Joe Sapp added. “This has been done before, and with the work there is a better than average chance that we can get through this.”

The Walker County Hospital District is scheduled to meet again tonight in Conference Room A on the second floor of Huntsville Memorial Hospital.