News

New owner vows to save RMH

Purchase made ‘so hospital could stay open’
By MIKE BROWN
Reporter Editor

Hanging on every word from new Blackhawk owner Kevin Owens (front) Monday were (L-R) attorney Fletcher Brown, Rockdale Hospital District board members Rev. Dennis Brooks and Terry Browning, Dr. John M. Weed III, RMH chief of medical staff. Reporter/Mike Brown Hanging on every word from new Blackhawk owner Kevin Owens (front) Monday were (L-R) attorney Fletcher Brown, Rockdale Hospital District board members Rev. Dennis Brooks and Terry Browning, Dr. John M. Weed III, RMH chief of medical staff. Reporter/Mike Brown Blackhawk Health Care’s new owner purchased the failing business specifically to keep it from closing Rockdale’s Richards Memorial Hospital.

Kevin Owens’ words were music to the ears of Rockdale Hospital District directors who met with the new owner for the first time Monday.

“You’re not going to do that to Rockdale,” were Owens’ words to Matt Hainline, former Blackhawk owner, after the health care group closed Bastrop Lakeside Hospital Nov. 19. “We’re not going to let the people of Rockdale go down like they did in Bastrop.”

Owens said Blackhawk was preparing to shut down RMH. One of the many rumors in the week of the Lakeside closing was that RMH was to be shut down five days later.

During Monday’s session, RHD directors also heard what were termed “preliminary” reports on possible reimposition of taxes, and investigations by IRS and the Office of the Inspector General.

BILLS— Owens said one of the first orders of business is addressing vendor debt run up under Blackhawk.

“There’s a lot of work we need to do to get people paid off,” he said. “There’s a lot of people we owe money to.”

Owens, a resident of Georgetown, said his background is in the (medical) imaging businesses.

“I have three imaging centers in the Austin-Bastrop area that we’re going to merge with the hospital which will immediately bring us some revenue with very little added cost,” he said.

“The way Blackhawk did business is not the way I do business,” Owens said.

BAKE SALES— Carl Hudson, board president, asked attorney Fletcher Brown to provide a report on the legal issues surrounding reimposing property taxes in the district.

“We have to consider sources of revenue from bake sales to taxes,” Hudson said.

Brown noted while the district can set a property tax of up to 50 cents—the current rate is zero—any such action would hold the RHD liable to a tax rollback election.

Residents of an entity may invoke a rollback if there is a tax increase of more than 10 percent.

“Since the rate is zero, any tax rate would be more than a 10-percent increase,” Brown said.

Brown also said any attempt to increase the size of the Rockdale Hospital District—currently the 1994 Rockdale city limits—would require two public votes, one in the current district and one in the area to be annexed.

“Both votes must be ‘yes’ or the annexation does not occur,” he said.

“I can’t imagine anyone voting to increase their taxes,” Hudson said.

Hudson said he wanted to clear up a perception about taxes in the RHD. “The taxes stay here, in the district, they don’t go to Blackhawk,” he said. “It’s general revenue for the district.”

Hudson emphasized the board was not proposing a return to a property tax.

PROBES— Brow n said the Office of the Inspector General, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services, was checking into billing processes.

He said there was no liability to the hospital district, noting that when Blackhawk bought the district’s provider number “the liability goes with it.”

Brown said IRS is looking into a possible W-2 (withholding) issue during the period when Blackhawk leased employees from the district.

He said it was likely all appropriate taxes were withheld but under two separate (employer) numbers.

In other business Monday, board members:

• Heard that the district has 55 patients enrolled in indigent care, 22 in the district, 33 outside it and 13 pending.

• Praised interim administrator Joel Suits and employees for their efforts during the crisis.

• Were told the district’s assisted living wing remains at full capacity.

• Changed the district’s fiscal year to the calendar year.


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2010-12-09 digital edition



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