Hospital: Blackhawk debt payoff 2013 goal

Employment back to 270 with 15 hires

Just three years after it came within a few days of closing, probably for good, Rockdale’s Richards Memorial Hospital is prepared to pay off the last debts from the bad memory that is the “Blackhawk Era.”

“We will pay off the final Blackhawk debts in 2013,” Jeff Madison, hospital administrator, told The Reporter on Tuesday.

During 2012 the final amount owed to the Rockdale Hospital District was paid off, Madison said.

“Now, we’ve incurred some new debt, not connected with Blackhawk,” Madison said. “But sometime this year we will be able to say the Blackhawk Era is over.”

Blackhawk imploded as a corporate entity in 2010, but not before firing between 30 and 40 RMH employees in the July 28 “Midsummer Massacre.”

The company closed a hospital in Bastrop and rumors swirled that RMH was next.

In November, Kevin Owens of Georgetown purchased RMH. The next month he told Rockdale Hospital District directors Blackhawk had planned to close the Rockdale hospital and that he made the purchase to keep that from happening.

MORE JOBS—There’s more good news. “We’ve added about 15 jobs during 2012,” Madison said.

“We have about 270 employees at Little River Healthcare,” Madison said. “We’re getting back to the employment level we were at before Blackhawk came on the scene.”

Little River Healthcare operates the hospital and two clinics in Rockdale.

Madison said his top priority in 2013 is a new administrative building.

“Right now, we’ve got administration at three different locations and there’s a lot of duplication,” he said. “It would be much more efficient to get all of our administration together, preferably at the hospital.”

Space is at a premium. In fact the administrative suite at RMH is soon to be turned into a pulmonary rehabilitation department, Madison said.

Another goal is construction of a new clinic, combining the two current clinics, one on Main Street and one at the RMH campus.

HEALTHY—Overall the health of RMH remains good, according to Madison. “People are using us and we’re busy,” he said. “We’re doing surgeries. Periodically we will have record months.”

Much of the non-Blackhawk debt incurred by the hospital in 2012 has been in satisfying a federal mandate to install electronic medical records.

“We’re spending $3.9 million on that,” he said. “The clinics just converted this week.”

Madison said Little River has been approved for a federal 115 Waiver. “That’s going to be an exciting new direction in the future, allowing us to expand our primary and special care services,” he said.

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