Tupelo company loses Port Gibson hospital pact

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Officials for Tupelo-based Team Health Inc. aren’t commenting on the company’s loss of a long-term contract to manage a Claiborne County hospital.
The Claiborne County Board of Supervisors voted to take back the local hospital after two years’ lease payments were missed by Team Health, formerly Rural Healthcare Developers.
The arrearage is about $869,000, County Administrator James Johnston told The Vicksburg Post last week.
RHD leased the facility in 2008 and has been behind on its lease since August 2010, he said.
“I don’t have any comment about the situation,” said Team Health’s Jackson attorney Michael Heilman after a Team Health receptionist referred questions to him Monday.
Johnston said business continues as usual at the 25-bed facility now named Claiborne County Hospital, instead of Patients’ Choice Hospital.
Jerry Kennedy, CEO at nearby Jefferson County Hospital, was hired by the county to consult as the supervisors consider hiring another management company or leasing the hospital again.
Johnston said the current pay period is RHD’s responsibility for the equivalent of 100 full-time workers.
“With the county taking it forward, the assumption is the county is going to look at developing a plan of action, with the assistance of a consultant, to pay them,” Johnston noted.
The hospital’s license has not yet been transferred, and during what is expected to be a two-week transition, RHD staff continues to provide some assistance, he said.
RHD became Team Health Inc. last May during a board meeting which saw the exit of its founder, Ray Shoemaker, and his wife, Nanette, of Tupelo from its legal entities.
Shoemaker, once RHD’s CEO and president, was found guilty March 2 on federal charges related to kickbacks, bribery and embezzlement while an executive at Tri-Lakes Medical Center in Batesville.
Shoemaker denies the charges, which include stealing $250,000, and has vowed to appeal the conviction. He has not yet been sentenced.
Claiborne supervisors also obtained a restraining order against Team Health/RHD.
Officials said county deputies took steps to ensure that computers and other equipment were not removed from the building.
Team Health/RHD owns a Belzoni hospital and runs a senior health program in Smith County. It is selling a hospital in Erin, Tenn.
Heilman said Monday the Belzoni facility is “open and operating.”
A few weeks ago, Hinds County Circuit Judge Winston Kidd granted a temporary order continuing state Medicaid payments to the Port Gibson and Belzoni hospitals.
The state tried to end payments because the hospitals did not get approval to change owners. Attorneys for the hospitals told Kidd the facilities would close by late July without Medicaid money.
The Vicksburg Post contributed to this story.