Hutcheson employees beg for last-minute deal

Staff photo by Maura Friedman / A sign reading "Save" is seen from inside the medical center on Tuesday in Fort Oglethorpe, Ga.


Number of Hutcheson full-time employees:› 2008: 893› 2009: 749› 2010: 672› 2011: 578› 2012: 543› 2013: 534› 2014: 534Source: Georgia Department of Community Health

Also read

* Judge: Hutcheson Medical Center must start layoffs this week * Hutcheson fights to keep doors open in face of looming layoffs * Hutcheson Medical Center ordered to begin laying off employees immediately * As shutdown looms, Hutcheson prays for salvation * Company offers to buy Hutcheson Medical Center for $7 million, hospital leaders say * Hutcheson workers told hospital will shut down Dec. 4 * Hutcheson clinic closings spark backlog of patient records requests * Mass layoffs, services cut at Hutcheson Medical Center * Hutcheson Medical Center patients at risk?

A group of about 20 Hutcheson Medical Center employees showed up at a Catoosa County public meeting to beg county officials to approve a last-minute deal to keep the bankrupt hospital open.

Hospital officials have been negotiating with Prime Healthcare Services, a California company that says it specializes in turning around community hospitals. The hospital is currently scheduled to close Friday. Hutcheson CEO Farrell Hayes said the hospital cannot be re-opened once it is closed because the building is not up to code.

Hayes told employees this morning that Catoosa County officials are the only group opposing a deal with Prime. Catoosa County guaranteed about $10 million in loans to Hutcheson in 2011 and is still on the hook to make that payment.

"There are a lot of patients nearby that will be -- for lack of a better term -- screwed over if Hutcheson closes," said Shane Duclo, an emergency room nurse.
Earlier this afternoon, Catoosa County attorney Clifton "Skip" Patty said the county is seriously considering the offer from Prime.

Patty said he was meeting with an attorney from Erlanger Health System this afternoon. Erlanger's lawyers say Hutcheson owes the Chattanooga hospital about $32 million.

All parties involved are scheduled to go before a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge Thursday at 4 P.M. -- potentially to discuss a deal for the hospital.

One other party has been against a sale. Last week, an attorney for Regions Bank argued in court that the hospital should not be able to stay open longer than Friday, a maneuver that was supposed to give Hutcheson more time to negotiate a deal with Prime.

Hutcheson owed the bank about $33 million last year, according to a December 2014 filing.

Contact Staff Writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or at [email protected]