De Queen Medical Center will again be the subject of a hearing on April 19 and some community leaders are stepping up in an effort to save the facility.
The hospital is now under receivership. Officials said it’s a way to help ensure the community continues to have convenient access to hospital care.
Right now, if an emergency happens in Sevier County, the hospital cannot care for patients.
“We’re basically on diversion so we can’t give patient care,” said Amy Wolcott, an employee of the facility.
That means ambulances now have to take patients at least 35 miles away to the next hospital, instead of bringing them to De Queen Medical Center.
“Pretty much there’s no hospital for the community,” said Wolcott. “And the community needs a hospital or we don’t have anything.”
Officials said it’s been more than a month since the hospital saw its last patient, but healthcare hope is on the horizon.
On Monday, county leaders filed paperwork to appoint the facility’s nursing director as receiver of the 25-bed critical access hospital. The circuit judge issued the order Thursday.
“We’re getting this under local control where local people care for local people,” said Sevier County Judge Greg Ray.
That order coming just in time, as the medical center’s critical access license was set to expire this week.
Officials said the process is now underway to renew the license and return to providing patient care to the more than 17,000 county residents.
“Short term goal: get the ER re-open for emergency services,” said Ray. “Down the road: get the hospital reopen.”
But, the hospital’s doors aren’t closed completely. To prevent the Arkansas Department of Health from shutting the medical center down, officials said the building must remain open with an employee present.
Employees haven’t been paid in five weeks.
“That’s the definition of community service, working out there without pay,” said Ray. “And being there to help your community.”
Hospital employees said they are looking forward to putting these issues behind them.
“After everything we’ve been through. There’s hope,” said Wolcott. “There’s hope now.”
County officials hope the judge at next month’s hearing might force the sale of the hospital, or put the property up for auction.