Hospital 101

Hospital situation so complex it’s hard even to know the questions
What are the answers to the latest in a series of crises affecting Rockdale’s Richards Memorial Hospital? Maybe a better way to approach the increasingly complex situation is to ask “what are the questions?”

Here’s a brief rundown of what might be called current RMH FAQ (frequently asked questions):

Is the hospital about to close? Probably not. Rockdale Hospital District directors have received assurances from the new owner of Blackhawk Healthcare there are no plans to close RMH as Blackhawk recently closed a Bastrop hospital.

What is Blackhawk anyway? It’s an Austin for-profit company which has managed RMH since 2006. But it doesn’t yet own the Rockdale facility as it did in Bastrop.

I thought Blackhawk had “saved” the hospital and was making money? So did almost everyone until about a year ago. Things began to go south after Blackhawk purchased the Bastrop hospital. Last week Blackhawk’s entire leadership team resigned and the company is being sold.

Where does the Rockdale Hospital District fit in all this? The district has a management contract with Blackhawk and was in negotiations to sell the facilities to Blackhawk. District board members are elected locally.

Will property and/or sales taxes be re-imposed by the district? Very unlikely. That’s been floated as a possibility in the future but having a for-profit entity benefit from tax money would be extremely unpopular. And any change in sales tax collection would require a public vote to take funding away from the recently-created Municipal Development District, also extremely unlikely.

• What’s going to happen next? Blackhawk’s new ownership will have to deal with a number of problems, not the least of which are debts owed to many local vendors. It will also need to reassure hospital district directors about Blackhawk’s future. There are circumstances in which contracts may be broken.

But things look better now than two weeks ago.—M.B.

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2010-12-02 digital edition

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