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  • Last modified 332 days ago (Jan. 17, 2019)

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Partial payment averts hospital utilities shutoff

Staff writer

Although Hillsboro Community Hospital’s utility service was scheduled to be shut off at noon Friday because of $28,644.31 in unpaid bills, someone averted shutoff that morning by paying about half the balance due.

The city was paid $16,664.31 Friday morning, according to a press release sent out by city administrator Larry Paine. Paine declined to say who had made the payment.

“It is the city’s ongoing desire to undertake reasonable steps to assist in keeping the hospital open, while also being a good steward of the city’s finances and utility resources,” the press release stated.

Although the hospital clinic continued to see patients at midday Friday, the atmosphere in the hospital was clearly tense.

A pair of emergency medical service employees entered a patient room and removed a woman shortly before noon.

Jessie Workman, chief nursing officer at HCH and the person to whom calls for the hospital CEO are routed, initially declined to comment but provided a phone number for Michael Murtha.

Murtha, who said he did not know the particulars of HCH’s situation but angrily denounced the city of Hillsboro for scheduling the shutoff, is president of National Alliance of Rural Hospitals.

Murtha said the hospital has provided “over a million dollars in charity care” over the last year and Hillsboro should be more patient about utility payment in consideration for free medical care the community has received.

Murtha said he is not an employee of EmpowerHMS, the company that owns HCH. However, Jorge Perez, CEO of EmpowerHMS, is chairman of the NARH board of directors. Michael Layfield, CEO of EmpowerHMS-owned Lauderdale Community Hospital, is a board member also.

HCH is embroiled in financial problems, one of which is a $9.8 million mortgage foreclosure lawsuit filed by Bank of Hays.

The press release sent by Paine stated the Wichita law firm Triplett, Woolf, Garretson has been hired to represent the city, which is one of 11 co-defendants in the foreclosure.

No explanation has been given for how the matters of unpaid utility bills and being a co-defendant in the mortgage foreclosure lawsuit are related.

In addition to not paying utility bills, missing payroll dates, and allowing employee insurance to lapse, Hillsboro Community Hospital faces three tax warrants for $59,914.51 in unpaid state withholding taxes, owes $29,280 to Hutchinson-based Mobile Cardiac Care, LLC, for a judgment won in a lawsuit, and owes the Hillsboro Building Commission $7,412.50 for unpaid rent.

Last modified Jan. 17, 2019

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