JAMESTOWN — After published reports first indicated Thursday that Rennova-owned Jamestown Regional Medical Center was closing, updated reports later in the evening indicated that the hospital, in fact, is not closing.
Citing State Representative John Mark Windle, D-Livingston, the Cookeville Herald-Citizen reported Thursday afternoon that the Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services (CMS) had given the Jamestown hospital until nightfall to voluntarily close, or have CMS force a closure.
The Independent Herald had worked throughout the afternoon Thursday to confirm rumors that the hospital was closing but was unable to independently verify those reports.
Contacted by phone, an employee in the administrative offices of the Jamestown hospital said Thursday afternoon — before published reports of the hospital's closure — that the administration had no information that the hospital had been ordered to close.
Rumors of the hospital's doom had begun to circulate around lunch time on Thursday. By late afternoon, however, some in positions to know had begun to seem less certain that the hospital was, in fact, closing.
In its updated story Thursday evening, the Herald-Citizen quoted Fentress County Executive Jimmy Johnson, who told the newspaper he had been told by Rennova's corporate officials that the company had paid taxes that were owed to the IRS, and forwarded a copy of the check to CMS, and the hospital would be allowed to stay open.
Earlier, Windle told the newspaper that the IRS had placed a lien on the Jamestown hospital for unpaid taxes.
Confusion continued Thursday evening, however. It is rare, at best, for CMS to order a same-day closure of a hospital. The Independent Herald was unable to identify any recent instance of CMS forcing a hospital's closure. CMS can terminate a hospital's Medicare certification, which can effectively force a hospital's closure. However, CMS's published protocol says that a 15-day notice must be given.
Even in instances of an emergency department with deficiencies that pose an "immediate threat" to the health or safety of patients, CMS's protocol calls for a preliminary notice to be issued giving the hospital 23 days to improve the deficiency or refute the finding. If CMS decides to follow through with terminating the hospital's Medicare certification, a public notice is required at least two days in advance of the termination.
The Independent Herald was unable to identify any instances of a hospital's Medicare certification being terminated by CMS — which deals with patient safety issues — due to unpaid taxes.
When Big South Fork Medical Center in Oneida, a sister hospital to the Jamestown facility, was owned by Pioneer Health Services in 2016, the IRS placed a $500,000 lien on the property due to unpaid taxes. CMS did not issue a notice that it was terminating Pioneer's Medicare certification.
In his statement to the Cookeville newspaper, Windle harshly rebuked Rennova founder and president Seamus Lagan, calling him an "Irish gangster."
Rennova's corporate executives had not said anything publicly about Thursday's develops as of late evening. In Oneida, Hal Leftwich — CEO of Big South Fork Medical Center — was away from the hospital to attend an event at Rennova's hospital in Jellico and was not immediately available for comment. However, sources from within the hospital had told the Independent Herald earlier in the day that anything happening at the Jamestown hospital would not have an impact on the Oneida facility.