UPDATE: Copper Basin Medical Center permanently closes

UPDATE: Channel 3 has learned that Copper Basin Medical Center (CBMC) in Polk County has permanently closed, according to the facility's website.

The statement on the website, written by CFO Tim Henry, cites a lack of cash flow as the reason behind the shut down.

The statement says, "Recently, cash flow has become insufficient to even pay employees, prompting the final decision to cease operations."

CBMC's Facebook page also says the facility is permanently closed.

Copper Basin Medical Center will stop accepting patients on Sunday, October 1 at 7:00am.

In May 2017, Copper Basin temporarily closed due to financial issues. A GoFundMe was started to raise the 100,000 dollars to keep the hospital running. Just over 5,000 dollars was raised.

Here is the entire statement regarding the closure of CBMC by CFO Tim Henry:

Copper Basin Medical Center has become at least the 10th rural community hospital in Tennessee to close since 2010. Located in eastern Polk County, Tennessee, Copper Basin Medical Center is designated as a Critical Access Hospital (CAH) under federal and state regulations.

Copper Basin Medical Center (CBMC) ceased hospital operations effective Sunday, October 1, 2017 at 7:00 am. No hospital services including inpatient, outpatient, diagnostic laboratory, or emergency care will be provided at this location until further notice. The Patient Accounts office and the Medical Records office will remain open to receive payments on accounts and to fulfill medical record information requests.

CBMC has for a significant period had difficulty in paying vendor invoices for the various medical and other supplies and services furnished. Many vendors have had to wait well beyond the usual and customary remittance period for payment for many years.  Most have been patient and have worked with us to keep us supplied.

Recently, cash flow has become insufficient to even pay employees, prompting the final decision to cease operations.

However, CBMC’s cash flow situation never improved on a consistent basis.  In addition, CBMC has incurred additional debt related to unpaid payroll taxes during late 2016 and early 2017.  This situation compounded with numerous other factors too lengthy to expound here only led to the recent decision that the best course of action is to cease operations and close the facility.

Copper Basin Medical Center has served the Copper Basin and the surrounding east Polk County communities of Copperhill, Ducktown, Turtletown (TN) and McCaysville (GA) for more than 60 years.  Originally built in 1954 with the donations from the area copper miners and their very own labor, CBMC grew into a vital part of a thriving community offering the full array of general hospital services including obstetrics.  After the last copper mine closed in 1987, CBMC and the community has seen their ups and downs adapting to the loss of its primary industry.  Over the years, the health care industry has advanced and changed dramatically with how services are accessed and delivered.  Unfortunately, like many other small rural hospitals in the Southeastern United States, CBMC has not been able to attract the investment necessary to adapt to these industry changes. Compounded with declining patient visits, mounting debt, and reimbursement reductions, CBMC, like many other rural hospitals, had no choice but to cease operations.

PREVIOUS STORY: Polk County’s only hospital will begin scaling back services. The inpatient services at Copper Basin Medical Center are temporarily closed. An emergency board meeting was held Tuesday evening to address the staff and concerned community members about the changes. 

The CFO said they just don't have the money to continue all services at the hospital. Over 15 nurses were let go from their positions. Some of them are still waiting for paychecks. 

“Fiscally irresponsible to continue operating the way we have in that capacity, totally fiscally irresponsible and were not going to do that,” said the CFO Tim Henry.

The temporary suspension to the inpatient care was a surprise to much of the staff at Copper Basin Medical Center, including nurses working in that department. 

“I came to work Saturday with a note on my desk, stating we were closing Monday the 9th,” said Tracy Rhodes a registered nurse. She lost her job and has not been paid for the last four weeks of work.

The chief financial officer explained it was a difficult decision, but they did not have enough cash in the payroll. “We took the highest paid wages, they didn't get paid. We paid the lowest wage people first with the amount of cash we had,” said Henry.

Jack Collins, who has served on the board for nine years, said they are in a financial crisis. He said over the last few years funds have been mismanaged, and the hospital didn't collect the debt from patient's accounts. But the lack of funds is stopping them from providing some services to the community.

“Our emergency room is still open. We still do x-rays, EMR. We do everything. The only thing we don't do at this time is inpatient. Still come to our hospital,” said Collins.

The staff understands the hospital needs money to operate, some just wish there was better communication. “It's very frustrating. You have bills to pay. I haven't been paid yet. I have a friend in inpatient who doesn't have a job, hasn't gotten paid,” said Christy Jones and emergency room nurse.

The operating managers hope to have the debt settled and the money issue resolved by the end of this fiscal year, so they can reopen the inpatient center. “We feel very confident that in the next 30 days we will see a good influx of cash. Sixty days, 90 days, build up some reserve to reopen the inpatient unit by October 1st,” said Henry.

The goal is to raise $100,000 to keep the hospital running. So far, they have raised $325.