The new owner of a shuttered hospital on the Cumberland Plateau is discovering why closure often becomes permanent. Cumberland River Hospital in Celina was purchased in August with a pledge to reopen within weeks.
The state said before restarting, the Tennessee Attorney General needed to review the sale since a government-run agency — Cookeville Regional Medical Center — was selling to a new for-profit entity called Rural Hospital and Clinics of America. Johnny Presley, a businessman and physician assistant with a chain of clinics on the plateau, paid just $500,000 for the facility.
In a letter issued one month after the initial notification, the AG raised concerns that Presley’s company had only recently been formed and asked for more documentation about Presley’s financial wherewithal.
Then in late October, the state sent another letter.
“At the end of the day, they said they didn’t really need to review it anyway,” Presley says. “It’s kind of odd.”
The hang-ups with the state put off a formal application with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to reboot. Presley says he’s badgering them every day to fast-track the hospital, given Clay County is without an emergency room. But he expects it will take several more months.
“You would think that they would do whatever they have to to make the process a little easier,” Presley says.
Tennessee has launched several programs to aid rural hospitals given the state has lost more than anywhere else but Texas.