Hutcheson Hospital Board, Physicians Urge Counties To Cover Debt; Ties With Erlanger Cut

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Hutcheson Medical Center board on Wednesday night passed a resolution urging Catoosa, Walker and Dade counties to proceed with issuing debt to cover the hospital's obligations.

The resolution also terminated the hospital's ties with Erlanger Health Center, which has been operating the facility and has put over $21 million in its operation.

Dr. John Nelson, the hospital’s chief of staff, read a letter citing accomplishments at the Fort Oglethorpe facility in recent months, but also urging the addressing of the debt problem.

Here are the resolutions that were passed:

Authorized the execution of a textile services arrangement between HMC and Xanitos.


Approved recommendations from HMD, Inc for a new clinic to be located in Ringgold, Georgia and for a new staffing and compensation model to be used in the clinics.


Approved the report from the Medical Executive Committee.


A motion was made that legal counsel be instructed to negotiate language with Erlanger Health Systems to achieve a mutual termination agreement and further move that the Executive Committee be authorized to approve and execute if completed prior to the next regular board meeting.


A motion was made that HMC, Inc., HHE, Inc. and the Hospital Authority formally ask Walker, Dade and Catoosa Counties to proceed with issuing Bond Anticipation Notes to provide immediate funding for current operations, debt reduction and working capital prior to the issuance of full bonding and that the BANs be issued without the requirement of a lessee being in place.


Dr. Weldon appointed Dr. Nelson to help with the evaluation of the Request for Proposal and asked that Dr. Nelson select physicians representing each specialty to work with the group selected to evaluate the RFP.


Mr. Jewell appointed Mr. William Cooke to serve on the Finance Committee.

Here is the letter from Dr. Nelson that was signed by a number of other physicians:

Dr. John Nelson, the hospital’s Chief of Staff:

This open letter, on behalf of the physicians signed below, is to the directors of Hutcheson’s Boards, to the Commissioners of Walker, Dade and Catoosa counties, and to the citizens served by Hutcheson Medical Center:

Over the past 18 months, we have witnessed Hutcheson’s aggressive recovery efforts under the leadership of Roger Forgey and his executive management team.  This administration walked into a failing hospital suffering from alienated physicians and the resulting loss of core medical services.  Mr. Forgey actively reached out to physicians who had previously worked with Hutcheson and in our community for years.  In doing so, this administration along with new and existing physicians have rebuilt the primary service lines needed to operate a vibrant community hospital. This includes:

·         The re-establishment of core medical services, including General Surgery, Cardiology, Pulmonology and Critical Care, Gastroenterology, and Urology;

·         An improved and more efficient Emergency Department staffed by physicians board-certified in Emergency Medicine;

·         A revitalized hospitalist program, led by Dr. Larry Rigsby, a well-known Chattanooga hospitalist and one of the few physicians with a fellowship in hospitalist medicine in our area, together with five well-trained, local physicians dedicated to managing the 24-hour medical care of our inpatients with enhanced primary care communication and subspecialty consultation from admission through discharge;

·         The development of the Hutcheson’s Transitional Care Clinic as an extension of inpatient care through post-discharge to coordinate short-term continuity of care with referral back to their primary care physician (scheduled to open September 9);

·         The expansion of Hutcheson’s outpatient clinic system, including new practices in Cardiology, Pulmonology, Multi-Specialty, and Urgent Care medicine in the last 18 months, with an additional primary care practice scheduled to open in Catoosa County in September;

·         Further support and clinical management of Hutcheson’s modern, accessible  ambulatory Surgery Center, multi-disciplinary Cancer Care, Battlefield Imaging, Laboratory Services, and future outpatient GI suites all conveniently located at  Hutcheson on the Parkway; and

·         The recruitment of Chris Moore, MD as the hospital’s Chief Medical Officer to serve as a liaison for much-needed physician representation on the executive management team.

As a result of this administration’s efforts in direct collaboration with the physicians, Hutcheson patients are experiencing the best clinical operations in years.  We understand the hospital’s financials also are positive for the first time in over seven years and are $10 million improved as compared to last year.

However, these accomplishments have been overshadowed by Hutcheson’s debt issues and the recent uncertainty with the Erlanger partnership. Despite Hutcheson’s operational progress, our community cannot gain confidence in the quality, compassion, and dedication of care provided daily at Hutcheson when all they hear is the chaos surrounding the uncertainty of the hospital’s future.  While County representatives have stated they will sign the bonds once a lease arrangement is formalized, it is our strong belief that Hutcheson simply can’t wait that long.  The hospital needs to discharge its debt service now in order for physicians, hospital staff, and administration to press forward with its aggressive recovery.  This administration has proven it can successfully operate Hutcheson, and dealing with the debt now allows us to continue improving the hospital’s services. At minimum, bonding the debt now puts Hutcheson in a greater negotiating position if and when a new lease partner is identified.

Therefore, we respectfully ask the Counties initiate a bond immediately so that Hutcheson can consolidate its prior debt, therefore assuring the community that this hospital can survive to serve the patients of this community.



John F. Nelson, MD

Chief of Staff

Jonathon Allen, MD                        Rick Fromm, MD               Eric Manahan, MD

M. Clark Colvard, MD                     Marvin Mills, MD              Darrell Weldon, MD

Tim Ashburn, MD                             Larry Rigsby, MD              David Adcock, MD

Lori D. Emerson, MD                       James Santoro, MD         Kendrick Mills, MD

Tricia Scheuneman, MD

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