It was not hard to find a smile at Big South Fork Medical Center Tuesday morning.
Bill Duncan, one of the familiar faces of the old Scott County Hospital who has returned from retirement — on an interim basis, he said — to serve as the new hospital’s chief financial officer, was wearing one. So, too, was Wayne King — another of the old guard at the hospital who has joined the Rennova Health team. Steve Leeds, the hospital’s long-time pharmacist, was all smiles.
But the biggest of all might have belonged to CEO Tony Taylor.
“Congratulations,” someone said to Taylor in the newly-remodeled lobby minutes after the hospital’s 8 a.m. opening Tuesday. “You said you would get this done, and you did.”
Taylor was the CEO brought on-board by Pioneer Health Services in 2013, and was the hospital’s administrator for the duration of Pioneer’s tenure in Oneida. When Pioneer Community Hospital of Scott closed its doors, Taylor stayed on, courting suitors who showed an interest in the hospital. That eventually led to a deal being brokered between the Florida-based Rennova and Pioneer for Rennova to acquire the hospital real estate and begin the preliminary steps towards reopening the facility.
The deal was announced in late December, finalized in early January by a federal bankruptcy court in Mississippi, and all eyes turned towards Spring 2017 as the anticipated opening date. As spring turned to summer and summer entered its dog days with still no word on the hospital’s opening, it was easy to feel skepticism building in a community twice spurned by hospital operators in the past six years.
But the opening of the 25-bed hospital did happen, and that was the reason for all the smiles on Tuesday, as Big South Fork Medical Center celebrated its first day of business. Dr. Josh Thompson, who returns to his role as the hospitalist, was on hand, waiting for the first patient to be admitted. Western Healthcare had the emergency room staffed — and the faces there, too, were familiar ones — and didn’t have to wait long for the first ER patient to arrive. The Scott County Ambulance Service delivered its first patient to the ER at 9:10 a.m., just over an hour after the facility opened.
“This is a great day for Scott County and the surrounding areas,” Taylor said. “We now have emergent health care close to home. The staff has worked tirelessly this past month getting the facility ready for patients. We look forward to taking care of our friends and family once again.”
In all, Taylor said 80 full-time and 20 part-time employees were on the job when the hospital opened Tuesday. Most all services were up and running, including the lab and diagnostics. One notable exception was surgery, which will open at a later date and add still more employees to the hospital’s payroll.
Big South Fork Medical Center, which was so named after a contest that sought community input, is the first hospital opened by Rennova, a publicly-traded diagnostics firm located in West Palm Beach.
“This is an exciting day for Rennova,” said the firm’s CEO, Seamus Lagan. “As I have stated before, (this) demonstrates our commitment to regrow and diversify our revenue stream from its historical focus on diagnostics services to include the provision of needed healthcare services.”
Lagan said the hospital had unaudited revenues of $12 million in fiscal year 2015, its last full year of operation before Pioneer fell into bankruptcy troubles. Rennova anticipates returning to 2015 levels within 12 months.
“We believe our investment and ability to facilitate the needs of doctors and other healthcare providers in the local area will enable us to exceed previous revenues achieved by this hospital,” Lagan said.
BSF Medical Center plans to make application to change its classification from an acute care hospital to a critical access hospital. Before that point, the hospital must undergo a CMS survey, which will allow it to receive its Medicare number to obtain payment from the federal government.