Avoyelles Hospital 'not going anywhere'

Parent company's Chapter 11 bankruptcy will not affect local facility


   News that the company that owns Avoyelles Hospital has filed for reorganization under bankruptcy laws has fueled a lot of concern and rumors in the parish, but the Marksville hospital “is strong, doing well and not going anywhere,” CEO David Mitchel said.
    Mitchel said the hospital’s parent company, Progressive Acute Care (PAC), filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy May 31.  There was a preliminary hearing in the case June 2.
   “Chapter 11 just allows the company to restructure its debt,” Mitchel said. “General Motors went through Chapter 11 and is still pumping cars out. We want the community to know that we’re good,” Mitchel continued. “We are very strong in Avoyelles and doing well. We are meeting our goals and the community needs.”
   Mitchel said people hear “bankruptcy” and they think the worst -- “chain the doors, turn off the lights.” That can occur under a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. However, Chapter 11 bankrupty -- such as PAC’s -- allows a company to reorganize its debt.
   Mitchel said there will be no change in the services offered by the hospital and no issues involving the hospital’s employees. 
   The Mandeville company owns Avoyelles Hospital in Marksville, Winn Parish Medical Center in Winnfield and Oakdale Community Hospital in Oakdale.
  “The filing will allow the hospitals to continue providing quality patient care and all services while restructuring its debt and restoring their financial strength,” Progressive Acute Care said in a press release.
   “PAC has faced some very challenging market and financial realities, particularly within recent months, Progressive CEO Dan Rissing said in that release. “Through this filing, our intention is to be able to continue all operations at Avoyelles Hospital, Winn Parish Medical Center and Oakdale Community Hospital while we work diligently to develop new long-term solutions and opportunities. We look forward to continued community support of the hospitals.”
   Rissing also said there will be no “immediate change for our patients, their families, physicians and the community -- or for our staff.” He said Chapter 11 allows companies “some relief from creditors during a restructuring of the business. That, simply, is what PAC is doing now.” Those interested in more information can visit  the www.progressiveacute.com website, he added.
    Documents filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Lafayette note that Avoyelles Hospital employs about 187 employees, most of whom are paid on a full-time hourly basis.
The documents show Avoyelles Hospital owed over $25,000 in utility bills when PAC filed its bankruptcy petition. It owed AT&T more than $5,000 and Entergy more than $20,000.
   The documents indicate it owed three “critical vendors” over $177,000 prior to the filing -- $126,040 to Hawkeye Medical Group for physicians working at the hospital, $26,840 to Delta Pathology Lab and $24,732 for Majestic Medical Solutions for radiology equipment repairs and maintenance.
Progressive lists its assets at between $1 million and $10 million and its liabilities at between $10 million and $50 million. The wide ranges in the initial filings are not unusual. More detailed and precise numbers are obtained later in the process.
   Industry officials have blamed the state’s past reluctance to expand  the federal Medicaid program for more of the state’s poor. The state changed that position when John Bel Edwards was elected as governor. Enrollment for the expanded Medicaid coverage began June 1. 
   The parish’s other hospital, Bunkie General, is the only  state-certified Medicaid Enrollment Center in the parish. 
   Mitchel said he cannot say whether Progressive’s restructuring will involve selling one or more of its rural hospitals.
   “I’m not in a position to know that,” he said. “It could happen.”
  However, Mitchel said the Marksville hospital’s future is not dependent on being bought by another company.