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Springfield Hospital, associated clinics to file bankruptcy plans

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 12/30/2019 9:16:35 PM
Modified: 12/31/2019 2:51:56 PM

SPRINGFIELD, Vt. — The outpatient clinics associated with Springfield Hospital could have a plan to exit Chapter 11 bankruptcy by the end of January, while the hospital itself aims to have such a plan by April, according to recent court filings.

What health services will look like following the organizations’ exit from bankruptcy remains unclear, said Tom Huebner, Rutland Regional Medical Center’s former CEO, who is monitoring the process for Gov. Phil Scott’s office.

“People are still working hard to make sure that patients are well served,” Huebner said on Monday. The “effort is to make sure (the) right array of services are available to patients going forward.”

Springfield Hospital and Springfield Medical Care Systems — an associated, federally qualified health center — entered bankruptcy in June, aiming to craft a plan to deal with $20 million of debt, while continuing to provide medical care for community members and employment for roughly 700 people.

In addition to the 25-bed Springfield Hospital, the organization also operates outpatient clinics in the Vermont communities of Springfield, Chester, Ludlow, Bellows Falls and Londonderry, and in Charlestown, N.H.

In a court order following a Dec. 13 case management conference, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Colleen Brown said the hospital and SMCS should aim to file a plan by Jan. 17. That plan should lay out issues that need to be addressed, the timeframe for addressing them and how to prioritize them.

SMCS appears to be closer to exiting bankruptcy and could file a plan to do so by Jan. 31, according to the order filed Dec. 18.

To do so, SMCS needs to finalize its financial figures, determine which assets it might sell as part of reorganization and move to separate from Springfield Hospital in some aspects of its operation, “while continuing to share certain other services that enhance cost-efficiency for both,” the order said.

Springfield Hospital will not be ready to file its plan until about April 1, according to the court documents.

The plans, once filed, will be subject to the judge’s approval, Huebner said.

For his part, Springfield Hospital Interim CEO Mike Halstead, an employee of Quorum Health Resources, said in an interview earlier this month that the best option moving forward would be to collaborate with Windsor’s Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center and Claremont’s Valley Regional Hospital to deliver services in Windsor and Sullivan counties.

In addition, Halstead said such a partnership also would involve Lebanon-based Dartmouth-Hitchcock, “to help support from a high level, tertiary care-type service.”

Halstead previously told the Green Mountain Care Board at an August budget hearing that Springfield Hospital needs a partner to survive.

Although what services will remain in Springfield will be up to hospital officials, Huebner said, he expects the community will need to retain a “strong primary care network.”

Springfield also has a busy emergency department, with 14,000 visits annually, Halstead said.

Mt. Ascutney CEO Joseph Perras confirmed in an emailed statement last week that the discussions about how to “better coordinate care” are ongoing.

D-H employs Valley Regional Interim CEO Deanna Howard. Mt. Ascutney is a D-H affiliate, while Valley Regional is not.

Howard said in a Monday email that she didn’t have any updates to offer on the Springfield discussions.

“We continue to have high-level discussions with the leadership at Springfield Medical Care Systems, to fully understand their current status and to find the best ways to support Springfield in caring for their patients,” D-H spokesman Rick Adams said in a Monday email.

As regional discussions and the bankruptcy process continue, the hospital and SMCS are required to submit weekly cashflow updates.

The most recent updates filed with the court on Dec. 26 showed cash balances above those projected for both entities for the week ending Dec. 22. The hospital ended the week with $1.31 million in cash, about $424,000 better than projected. Meanwhile, SMCS ended with $1.13 million, about $232,000 better than projected.

“They’re doing OK so far,” Huebner said. “The process is not done.”

Green Mountain Care Board Executive Director Susan Barrett said though her board, which regulates the state’s hospitals, doesn’t have a role in the bankruptcy, it is following the proceedings closely.

“(We) want to make sure there’s access to high quality health care in the area,” she said in a phone interview last week.

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at ndoyleburr@vnews.com.

Correction

Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center CEO Jos eph Perras is employed by the Windsor-based hospital, which is an affiliate of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health. An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified his employer.




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