But the 50 or so people hadn’t called ahead to get on the agenda. The Roanoke City Council anticipated a public outcry, however, and set aside time for public comment.
Two weeks ago the Roanoke Health Care Authority announced it was looking to sell the city’s hospital. The hospital was likely to close down if a buyer wasn’t found within 30 days, a press release said. Last Thursday, the authority held a special called meeting, and revealed the hospital couldn’t afford to continue operations that long.
The authority voted to close the hospital that night.
Patients were transferred to other hospitals the next day. Late Friday afternoon, physicians staffing the emergency room had walked out and the doors were locked behind them.
The dpctors were provided by an independent contractor that instructed them to leave due to the amount of money owed by the hospital for services.
Staff members weren’t notified by management or administrators. One nurse was on vacation and learned from a friend. No memo was sent out.
The only attempt to reach employees was a post made on the Randolph Medical Center’s website directing workers to the Alabama Career Center.
“The people employed by the hospital have not received anything,” said Latisha Wright, who was selected by a group of former employees to speak on their behalf.
The two hospital authority members on the city council – Mayor Mike Fisher and Councilman Joseph Roberson – told the crowd about how they didn’t know about or expect such a sudden closure.
Operations were expected to wind down over the course of two weeks, Roberson said. A lot of “critical vendors” could have pulled the plug on hospital operations at any time, Fisher said. Friday’s sequence of events surprised both of them, they said.
“It is a disgrace to me personally that this hospital has closed,” Fisher said. “I will not quit working to get this hospital back, to get something back open.”
Fisher invited the crowd to write down questions they want answered and pledged to stay “until midnight” with them if necessary. He said residents can take the questions to tonight’s hospital authority meeting, to be held 6 p.m. at the hospital.
As nurses gathered around Wright and dictated questions to copy down on a legal pad, 6-year-old Jolene Yates expressed her concern about her mother, Daniele Clark, who’s having neck surgery soon.
She asked God to help Roanoke’s hospital to stay open for her mom’s surgery.
But now that it’s closed, Jolene – who wore pink and brown scrubs to the meeting – is worried what might happen if her mom needs help after the surgery.
“I don’t want her to get more sicker,” Jolene said.
Star staff writer Jason Bacaj: 256-235-3546