Authority members considered two proposals, one from RMC and another from Bill McKenzie, formerly of Montgomery-based Gilliard Health Services, which briefly owned Roanoke’s hospital in the early 2000s.
The members announced they accepted RMC’s proposal after about 30 minutes in executive session. Lawyers will begin working today to draft a letter of intent, which spells out the proposal in writing, said Trae Wilkinson, interim authority chairman.
“They were just a good fit,” Wilkinson said after the meeting, noting RMC’s good reputation and strong presence.
A timeframe of when RMC will take over the Southern Family Health Care clinic operations is unclear. The authority’s hospital and business licenses expire April 18.
Wilkinson and Louis Bass, RMC’s chief financial officer, deferred questions on the matter to their respective lawyers. Bass said he hopes to finish the transaction as quickly as possible.
He and RMC CEO David McCormack visited Roanoke’s rural clinic on Price Street earlier this week, Bass said. The two left impressed with the staff and business, he said.
Southern Family Health Care is a primary care facility with four nurse practitioners, said manager Debbie Sellers. Nurses see an average of about 20 patients a day, she added.
Last month roughly 1,140 patients came to the clinic, said April Anthony, one of the nurse practitioners.
The average number of patients might increase in the coming weeks, Sellers said. Her staff has been “slammed” with patients since one of the local family practice clinics closed in the last few weeks.
“The clinic is absolutely viable,” Sellers said.
That’s what RMC is hoping for as it takes over. Providing services in southern Randolph County should increase the Anniston-based hospital’s referral base, Bass said.
“Right now, that’s what all the hospitals are looking for,” Bass said.
Board members and hospital staff were anxious to find out how it went, texting Bass joking messages of “Get it done” and “Don’t come home if you don’t” during the proceedings, Bass said afterward. Moving to purchase the rural clinic also advances RMC’s goal to be just that – a regional medical center, he said.
RMC plans to keep the entire clinic staff on board when it takes over, Bass said.
Money from selling the clinic -– when it’s sold –- will go toward repaying the Roanoke Health Care Authority’s many creditors, said Lee Benton, bankruptcy attorney for the authority, on Tuesday. The hospital filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in federal court Monday afternoon.
RMC will lease the building from the authority, he said during the Tuesday interview. That money will go toward repaying creditors as well.
As the meeting adjourned, Bill McKenzie, 82, stopped the proceedings and launched into a 20-minute speech that concluded with his announcing that he had submitted a bid to purchase the hospital. McKenzie has been out of the hospital business for about five years but said he was looking to get back in because “Mr. Obama cost me a ton of money.” He said that he was worth $5 million.
The court will appoint a trustee to handle the hospital’s assets either today or Monday, Wilkinson said.