Greenwood Leflore Hospital has resumed most of its services after being largely shuttered for three days due to a clogged sewer line and its aftermath.
It is, however, still not admitting patients for overnight stays. Shutting down inpatient services is being considered as a possible cost-cutting move to buy the financially troubled hospital some time while it pursues a lease arrangement with a larger medical institution.
The hospital said in a release Thursday that it has received approval from the Mississippi State Department of Health to resume normal operations.
The hospital had implemented a major shutdown on Monday following a clog in the sewer line that caused what was believed to be human waste and other sewage to back up into the crawl spaces beneath the older half of the 208-bed facility. Although the clog was cleared on Monday, the hospital was largely emptied of patients and employees because of the possibility that harmful gases, mostly methane, could drift into the hospital via the five elevator shafts where moisture from the sewage leak was detected.
The hospital said in its latest release that the building met air quality safety standards throughout the week, that clean-up efforts had been completed, and that its plan to remediate the contamination in the underground crawl spaces has been approved by the Department of Health.
On Thursday the hospital resumed outpatient surgeries as well as outpatient testing in radiology and in the lab. Clinics located inside the hospital were also returning to normal operations.
During the three-day stoppage, the hospital kept its labor and delivery unit open as well as the emergency room for walk-in patients. Clinics located outside the main hospital building also continued to operate as normal.
After discharging or transferring all inpatients on Monday, the hospital has decided, at least temporarily, to continue to divert anyone needing inpatient care to other medical facilities. That means no surgeries are being scheduled that require an overnight stay, and the intensive care unit is closed. Accident victims and critically ill patients could still be brought by ambulance to the emergency room, where they would be treated and stabilized before being transferred to another hospital if their condition warrants inpatient care.
“Further analysis is required to determine with labor shortages and higher labor costs how we can continue to operate while remaining viable until a lease is finalized,” the Greenwood hospital’s statement said.
The hospital has been under a steadily increasing financial strain and is seeking proposals from another medical institution to take over its operation on a long-term lease.
The deadline for bids is Aug. 31, but it’s projected that it could take until December for a lease to be finalized. There has been growing concern over whether the hospital has enough cash to last that long. All of its normal reserves have been exhausted, and any operating shortfalls are now being covered with the roughly $7 million remaining in advance Medicare payments that the hospital received in 2020. Those Medicare payments are in the form of a loan, though, and that pool of money could run out as early as October, based on the payback schedule and the hospital’s current loss trends. The hospital has lost $12.7 million through the first 10 months of the current fiscal year, even after using $9.2 million in mostly coronavirus relief grants.
Earlier this week, Gary Marchand, the interim CEO, said he was confident that the hospital would be able to remain in operation until a lease could be finalized. He said, however, that the situation might require the additional discontinuation of some services.
Earlier this year, the hospital closed its pain clinic, and its urology clinic is scheduled to close at the end of this month.
It was unclear what impact the loss of inpatients might have on nurses and other employees who have worked in those areas of the hospital.
“Further analysis of reopening the inpatient areas will need to be done to determine staffing needs going forward. We anticipate completing this next week,” said Christine Hemphill, a hospital spokeswoman.
The hospital’s Incident Command staff, which managed this week’s emergency, said in the prepared statement that it was “grateful to hospital employees for all they have done and their patience as we worked through this sewage line event.” It also thanked the companies, government entities and ambulance services that assisted in resolving the crisis as well as the hospitals that accepted the 17 patients transferred to their facilities.
“This was definitely a team effort,” said Key Britt, the hospital’s vice president of administrative services and its incident commander. “We have so many people to thank for their support and partnership.”
- Contact Tim Kalich at 662-581-7243 or firstname.lastname@example.org.