A graphic published by Pioneer Health Services Tuesday morning announces the Dec. 2 hospital opening in Oneida.
A graphic published by Pioneer Health Services Tuesday morning announces the Dec. 2 hospital opening in Oneida.

 

At 8 a.m. Monday morning, the Pioneer Community Hospital of Scott will open its doors.

When it does, it will mark the first time the "hospital on the hill" in mid-town Oneida has been open since Health Management Associates (HMA) closed the doors on May 24, 2012.

Sabrina Terry, Pioneer's director of community education, confirmed Tuesday morning that the state has granted the hospital its long-awaited license, clearing the way for the Dec. 2 opening.

The opening follows a long and rigorous effort by local government officials and Magee, Miss.-based Pioneer Health Services to reopen the facility, and yet it comes sooner than had recently appeared possible.

As recently as the first of November, the dozens of hospital employees who had already gone to work as part of a transition team to get the facility ready for reopening were notified of a potential layoff, and Scott County officials warned that it might be January — at least — before the hospital opened.

At the center of that uncertainty was an issue over Pioneer's plan to not offer OB services — at least not in the immediate future. The hospital's initial license is an acute care license, and state regulations require acute care facilities to offer OB services.

However, Pioneer and Scott County learned on Nov. 8 that the state's Health Services & Development Agency would hold an emergency certificate of need hearing, requested by both Pioneer and Scott County Mayor Jeff Tibbals, to consider a temporary certificate of need. At that hearing, held four days later, the temporary license was approved and Pioneer set Dec. 2 as its tentative opening date.

Speaking to the Independent Herald after that decision, Tibbals cautioned that there were still some minor hurdles that needed to be cleared, but called it a "celebratory day in the history of Scott County."

Last week, Scott County Commission chairman pro tem Paul Strunk told the Scott County Chamber of Commerce that Pioneer hoped to learn by the time the state shuts down shop for the Thanksgiving holiday tomorrow whether the final hurdle had been cleared.

That news, Terry said, was handed down from the state Tuesday morning.

In a prepared statement, Pioneer Health said simply, "The wait is over."

"On Dec. 2, you will have access to trusted emergency medical care and vital ancillary services right here in Oneida," the statement said. "We're pleased to have expedited this phase of care while our team continues to work diligently to obtain Critical Access Hospital (CAH) certification for the hospital."

On Dec. 18, Pioneer Health is scheduled for a regular certificate of need hearing before the Health Services & Development Agency's certificate of need board. At that point, the board will consider whether to allow the hospital to operate without an OB until the critical access designation is obtained.

As a critical access facility, OB services are not required under state regulations.

The critical access license is handled by a board separate from the Health Services & Development Agency's certificate of need board. It cannot be applied for until the hospital has opened as an acute care facility. Pioneer Health is expected to make application for the critical access license Monday, a process that can take at least 90 days.

If the certificate of need board were to reverse the decision made at the emergency hearing earlier this month when it convenes on Dec. 18, Pioneer will be given an opportunity to appeal that decision.

Meanwhile, Pioneer plans to forge ahead.

"In the months ahead, we will be adding more medical providers, opening family medical clinics, expanding our medical service lines, and recruiting physician specialists in order to make your health care experience even more convenient," Pioneer said in a statement.

This article was updated on 11/26/13 at 5:51 p.m. to clarify the date of Scott County Mayor Jeff Tibbals' comment to the Independent Herald and to correct the name of Scott County Commission chairman pro tem Paul Strunk.

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Ben Garrett is Independent Herald editor. Contact him at bgarrett@ihoneida.com. Follow him on Twitter, @benwgarrett.