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Tri-County Hospital kaput

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CORRECTION to earlier story added

By Mark Scohier, Staff writer

 

CORRECTION:

In a story on the proposed Tri-County Hospital published in the Aug. 29 issue of the Chiefland Citizen and posted on the Citizen website, a quote concerning money spent for the hospital was incorrectly attributed to Chiefland City Manager Kevin Gay.

Kevin Gay did not make the statement. It came from an email sent in by an anonymous Citizen reader.    

 

The proposed Tri-County Hospital is dead in its tracks.
Plans to build the Chiefland hospital have been limping along for more than seven years, but all that stopped Tuesday when representatives from the company trying to build it, Ameris Health Sysytems, relinquished a state-issued Certificate of Need.
Frank Schupp, Ameris chief executive officer for the once-proposed Tri-County Hospital, said today that his company, based out of Nashville, just couldn't attract enough investors to finance the projected $66 million hospital.
"We tried," Schupp said.
Still, Schupp said he's hopeful Ameris can help organize efforts to see another hospital built some time in the future, but the company will have limited involvement.
"Under the new rules for the CON (Certificate of Need), if a new one were to be filed, what we would be exploring would be to create a new entity."
Ameris would not be the applicant, he said, but the company would help organize a board, comprised of members from the tri-county area, that would preside over the hospital.
"Our role would strictly be working with the board and the hospital management company ..." if such a thing were to come to fruition.
Schupp said recommended plans for a future hospital have been downgraded. The scope now would include a concentration on outpatient services. And the hospital, once proposed to be a two-story, 60-bed facility, is recommended to be a one-story facility with 28 beds and is projected to cost about $28 million. Ameris is also advising that a hospital, if again undertaken, be a not-for-profit 501c3 operation and that the money for construction be raised before a CON is applied for.
"I'm disappointed it's gone from a for profit to a not-for-profit," said Chiefland Mayor Teal Pomeroy a few minutes after meeting with Schupp at City Hall Thursday morning.
Pomeroy said the city will miss out on a lot of tax revenue, though he said he remains optimistic that some type of facility will eventually be built.
"The boom that would follow, it would certainly help," Pomeroy said on the potential development opportunities arising from the construction of a hospital in Chiefland.
Still, it could be years down the road before such an institution gets built.
"We're basically starting from scratch," Schupp said.
The architect's plans would have to be drawn up again, as well as reapplying for various permits, he said, and a new CON, issued by the Florida Agency for Healthcare Administration, would have to be applied for. The $61,000 raised by members of the Chiefland community to pay for the initial CON in 2006 is a loss, he said. State and federal tax credits awarded earlier for the construction are lost and would have to be reapplied for. The land, about 20 acres located behind Walmart, would have to be sold to whatever organization is formed in the event that a new project is undertaken.
"I'm disappointed, of course," said Chiefland's Dr. Bob Mount after hearing the news.
Mount, just one of a handful of community members and business owners who paid for the CON, said he and others have been working with Ameris and state and local agencies for years to have a hospital built.
"I have been involved from the very beginning," he said. " I would have loved to see it come."
But Mount, like others, said he's hopeful that something will be built, even if it's a scaled-down version of what was previously planned.
"To me, it's a fresh start," Schupp said, adding that financing would be easier for a smaller hospital, especially for a non profit. And he  said he believes the support to get it done is there. "So far, people are saying they'd be pleased to work with us to get this re-established."