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Atlanta Memorial Hospital officials look to keep doors open

By Brenda Brown, bbrown@news-journal.com
Jan. 22, 2012 at 11 p.m.


ATLANTA - Financial problems are forcing Atlanta Memorial Hospital officials to seek help from a Texarkana medical center.

Officials from Christus St. Michael Health System and the Atlanta hospital announced this past week that they had signed a letter of intent to negotiate a lease agreement to keep the Atlanta hospital open.

Fran Wyatt, Atlanta Memorial Hospital board secretary, said she was pleased board members "found an avenue to save our hospital" as financial problems would have eventually closed the facility.

Ellington Clinic, which is owned by the Atlanta hospital and leased to its practicing doctors, also must negotiate a deal with Christus, she said.

St. Michael's CEO Chris Karam said officials are working on the financial and logistical details associated with the transition.

The hospitals are operated as nonprofit entities.

AMH board member and Treasurer Tommy Granberry said the decision was a tough one as they have talked with several hospitals and management groups in the past couple of years to find the best option for the hospital's employees and patients.

"Our hospital is a vital part of our community," Granberry said.

Board member Lynne Spivey said AMH has a bonded indebtedness of about $5 million. When constructed in 1972, the hospital cost $3 million, but that debt was paid long ago, she said. The hospital spent about $7 million to build a new wing and make other improvements.

"We have looked at all of our options, but we knew our options would never include closing the doors or selling the hospital," Spivey said.

AMH is chartered for 65 beds, and Spivey said the hospital is required to staff it for 65 beds even when the patient count falls well below that number.

The hospital has struggled, especially during the past couple of years, as federal and state money has declined. The hospital receives no tax revenue.

Once the lease is negotiated, Karam said the hospital's name will likely change to Christus St. Michael-Atlanta.

Wyatt and Granberry said they believe the new name will be a benefit because St. Michael's is respected and many Cass County residents already use the Texarkana hospital.

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