Plaquemine hospital River West closes, only ER remains open for now

Tryve Brackin

Local hospital River West Medical Center closed down it operations with the exception of its emergency room Tuesday after efforts were made by creditors to push the facility into involuntary bankruptcy with a court hearing Monday.

The medical center’s executive officer Bryan Bogle gave a statement Monday that only emergency room operations would be available Tuesday. With all other hospital operations closed, approximately 200 employees would be affected financially.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Douglas D. Dodd decided in court Monday to postpone any decision as to how to proceed with any bankruptcy case until a later hearing in March.

Meanwhile, State Dept. of Health and Hospitals Secretary Alan Levine said state officals are concerned for the livelihoods of the hospital employees and that questions have arisen as to whether or not the facility can stay open only in an ER capacity. Levine said the corporate owner of the hospital left the community in a difficult situation.

Jin Cheek, owner of Shiloh Health Services was in Plaquemine Monday for meetings with the River West staff managers to come up with immediate solutions to the closure and bankruptcy proceedings. Shiloh is the corporate owner of River West, having purchased the hospital in 2007.

What prompted the bankruptcy hearing Monday was the issuing of employee checks in late January that bounced. Since that time the state’s DHH advanced the money to cover the payment of salaries to the hospital employees. The DHH and Iberville Parish officials got together, along with other creditors, to file for involuntary bankruptcy against River West to force a solution to the financial difficulties. A bankruptcy petition filed in court gave the hospital’s debts a total of more than $500,000 to creditors.

Attorneys representing River West told Judge Dodd Monday that funds from the hospital and Shiloh were available to cover payroll checks issued last Friday.

Judge Dodd did not assign a trustee to the case, but did put restrictions on management and owners of the hospital.

A statement by Shiloh officials was that more information on the future of the hospital, including

immediate operations, would come today (Thursday).

Iberville Parish President J. Mitchell Ourso made a statement Monday that local government will make every effort to keep the hospital in the community under any ownership. He said the parish backed the lawsuit as an immediate effort to remedy the situation at hand and to help direct efforts to keeping it open.

During hospital officer Bogle’s statements Monday about the closure of everything but the ER, he reported his job had been terminated.