Stokes struggling hospital could emerge from bankruptcy healthier than ever.
“We are very optimistic at this point. We’ve really come a long way because we’ve felt more than once that it was all over,” said Stokes County Board of Commissioners Chair Leon Inman.
Lifebrite Hospital Group, a company based out of Atlanta, Georgia is working to obtain an interim management agreement which could lead to a permanent takeover of Stokes County medical facilities.
“At the end of the day we’ll have a private entity come in and take over this hospital and services. The county does not want and does not need to be in the hospital business,” Inman said. “We feel like we’ve done the right thing. We’ve done what we’ve needed to do to give this hospital an opportunity to survive.”
Before the purchase agreement is signed another entity could upset the bid, as it remains in bankruptcy court.
“At this point the county is really done all we can do,” Inman said. “LifeBrite is trying to keep the hospital open, but it could take months. We don’t know the timeframe.”
Director of LifeBrite, Jorge Perez explained his company is in the business of saving distressed hospitals in rural communities. One of their primary focuses is to generate additional revenue by providing state of the art medical equipment.
“You guys have a lot of things I don’t normally find in rural hospitals. You have a psychiatric department which is not being used and an amazing nursing home. You have the things to make this hospital great,” he said. “I don’t want to sit here and explain why the reasons it’s in distress, but I know with my management team and our technology we can turn it around.”
Commissioner Ronda Jones said she was impressed with the company’s diverse strategy and the fact they’d doubled employees at another hospital they manage in a 14-month stretch.
“We hope you are a lifeline we so desperately need,” she said.
LifeBrite is currently overseeing three other hospitals and has seen significant progress since taking over.
“Our company has their own technology. We write our own software and have our own 24/7 billing team. Billing shouldn’t stop at five o’clock. You guys have so many different locations, it entails a lot of logistics and coordination to manage it,” Perez said. “One of the greatest pitfalls management companies have when they take over a hospital is they try and run thing as a nine to five and get backed up. They don’t have enough people to follow up and attack these things. We do and that’s our claim to fame.”
Perez believes to make the hospital successful it’ll need to attract qualified physicians.
“I want to bring big city medicine into Stokes County and the only way I can do that is by giving them the tools and technology. That’s where our company comes in and we bring the greatest and latest
technology, even some they may not see in the city. Once we have the specialists and the technology it’s a no-brainer the community is going to feel confident this hospital can deliver the best quality and care.”
“Once we’re growing we’re going to need staff,” Perez said. “Where is that going to come from? We’re going to look into the community to bring additional workforce.”
Before filing Chapter 11 in March, Pioneer employed over 300 workers.
Perez hopes to see that number increase.
“I want to bring additional services that don’t exist today. The only way to do that is by bringing nursing staff and additional clerical and administrative staff.”
Inman said Stokes Board of Commissioners has gone as far as they can to keep the hospital doors open and they’ve done so because it’s important for citizens in the county to have access to health care.
He said to Perez, “We stand ready to help you in any way we can.”
Amanda Dodson can be reached at 336-813-2426 or on Twitter at AmandaTDodson.