Franklin County Hospital Problems

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Franklin County has a $2 million problem of how to keep Weems Hospital open. The former owners are in financial distress, and the new owners won't take over just yet.

So what's holding up the process? Well, a little 8 1/2 inch piece of paper. It's the license for this hospital. The former owners actually sold the rights to it and now that the county wants to take it back over, they may have to pay it off.

Alan Pierce, Franklin County Director of Administration, says, "The previous hospital management group had the license in their name and then were able to have creditors put liens against that license for money they received, debts they incurred."

To keep that license they'll have to pay off the $2.7 million debt. County leaders say right now it looks as if there's no choice but to pay up or shut down.

Ron Wolff, Interim CEO of Weems Hospital says, "This hospital in this particular case, a critical care hospital, is vital to the needs of the county. People would have to go literally two hours, almost two and a half hours to find health care."

So after an emergency meeting, the hospital agreed to take on the license and explore paying off the debt. The question now is will Franklin County residents agree to a one-cent sales tax to pay for a 25-bed emergency care center.

County leaders are looking to see if there is a chance to recoup that money from Medicare. Blackhawk, the new owner, is allowing its management team to work for the county free of charge for the next four months hoping this will be cleared up in that time.