A newly formed company is set to take over a struggling public hospital in Decatur County. The county commission votes Monday night on whether to accept buyout terms.
Decatur General CEO Sandy Hayes says she believes her 45-bed hospital in Parsons, Tennessee, could reverse its fortunes with some private investment. In recent years, it has scraped by with just enough money from county coffers, requiring $200,000 a month to stay afloat.
"I believe if you have additional resources, whether that's manpower or financial support, that there are a number of changes that you could make that you were not able to make when you had less resources to do it with," Hayes said Friday. "I'm confident that this hospital has a very bright future."
Hayes acknowledges that private owners will still have the same challenges — a relatively unhealthy and low-income population. But she says the investment may attract more paying patients who are currently driving nearly two hours into Nashville.
Decatur would have been the ninth rural hospital to close in Tennessee since 2012 — the most of any state but Texas. Hayes stepped into the CEO job 10 months ago to find a way to keep the facility open.
"We do not need to lose every rural hospital in the state before somebody wakes up and helps find a solution," she said.
The buyer is called Impeli Health, which only incorporated in Tennessee this month and has never owned a hospital. The new company confirms it's paying a million dollars and also agreeing to invest a million dollars into the facility.
"It will take an army to keep hospitals in rural areas," said Kelly Codega, Impeli's chief operating officer. "I know this is going to be a challenge. But I also believe in keeping health care at home."
Codega previously worked in marketing and physician relations for Baptist Medical Group. She said she and other executives with Impeli, who have not been named publicly, will draw on their industry connections to help provide new services in Decatur County, like telemedicine. Impeli could take over as early as Thursday, March 1.
"We don't plan on managing the hospital. We plan on becoming part of the community," she said. "We want to make sure we do this right and do this well."
Because it's a public, nonprofit hospital, the privatization deal will have to be approved by the Tennessee Attorney General. Also, any money paid to the county will have to be put into a trust fund that typically is restricted only for use toward "general health care of the community."