weather icon Clear

Tonopah’s hospital closing town’s top story for 2015

TONOPAH – This year brought many impactful news reports to the Nye County seat of Tonopah. They include in no particular order:

County budget issues impacting many programs such as senior nutrition, the jail and animal control;

The Clines’ continued investment in Tonopah with the opening of Tonopah Brewing Company;

The departure of Tonopah Town Manager James Eason;

A recall petition began circulating against Tonopah Town Board Chairman Horace Carlyle;

The passing of Bill Roberts, longtime reporter, columnist and former owner of the Tonopah Times-Bonanza & Goldfield News newspaper.

While the list is not meant to be fully inclusive or ranked in order of importance, one story clearly stands out as being the most impactful, not only in Tonopah but the central Nevada region in general.

The closing of the Nye Regional Medical Center on Aug. 21 left the town without an acute care facility for nearly 100 miles.

The surprise announcement by Center CEO Wayne Allen, said that the closing was necessitated by increasing debt after earlier efforts to save the hospital by arranging partnerships with other health care organizations proved unsuccessful due to the hospital’s small size and remote location.

“The hospital operations cannot be sustained any longer with expenses greater than revenues,” said Allen when announcing the closing on Aug. 19.

The year had started out promising for the hospital, at least publicly, with the 12-bed facility and clinic beginning to emerge from bankruptcy. In December 2014, the county approved a bankruptcy settlement agreement, a new 20-year lease agreement with a restructured Prime Care Nevada and a distancing from the facility’s former director, Dr. Vincent Scoccia.

“This puts the hospital in a very good position to emerge from bankruptcy and to have a sustainable future,” said Talitha Gray Kozlowski, a Las Vegas-based attorney hired by the county to work on the bankruptcy.

On Jan. 15, the new hospital administration held its first “health needs assessment community input meeting.” In February, Allen, a hospital administration veteran with more than 40 years in the health care industry, was hired to oversee the hospital. But the optimism was short-lived as the financial cracks were starting to resurface.

In April, the county was proposing the establishment of a hospital tax district to bring an influx of cash to what was being openly referred to as a “financially struggling” medical facility. The county had loaned the facility nearly $2.5 million by that time, leveraged against the hospital’s assets.

On April 7, Tonopah Town Manager James Eason told the Nye County Commission the medical center was struggling to make payroll. It was estimated at that time the hospital’s operators were already $1 million in debt, some of it coming from the inability to collect unpaid medical bills. The county forged ahead with the plan for a tax district it said would bring an estimated $750,000 in tax revenue annually.

Allen publicly pushed forward, holding a community meeting in late May to discuss a “community health assessment” and talk about the center’s future. But the future was to be short-lived, despite the county authorizing another $500,000 loan in late July. In that loan request from Prime Care was the caveat to assure continued provision of services by physicians, suppliers and employees through August.

By Aug. 21 the hospital closed, and the accompanying clinic closed Sept. 4, leaving Tonopah, Goldfield and the region without an emergency department, inpatient care, laboratory, radiology, respiratory and outpatient therapies.

“This is a tragic loss for the population served by our hospital,” Allen said. “This is a decision that will ultimately jeopardize the health and well-being of our community and surrounding areas. We are hopeful that another health care entity will see this lack of access to health care as an opportunity.”

Four months later the building remains closed. However, there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon.

On Tuesday, Nye County commissioners will discuss a possible professional service agreement between the hospital district and Reno-based nonprofit medical services provider Renown Medical Group to “provide professional primary and urgent care services.”

Contact Editor Arnold M. Knightly at aknightly@pvtimes.com. On Twitter: @KnightlyGrind

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Fearing slaughter of wild horses, lawmakers seek to halt adoption program

Outraged lawmakers are saying a wild horse adoption program should be halted and an investigation should be conducted following a report that some of the horses were sold to buyers and slaughtered for meat.

Nye County green-lights $7.45 million in energy upgrades through performance contract

Following three years of gearing up for a large-scale energy conservation project, Nye County has now entered into a performance contract with Siemens Industry, Inc. that aims to provide an array of upgrades and improvements intended to reduce energy costs.

Pahrump Music Festival declared a huge success

Whenever an organization ventures into putting on a new community event in Pahrump, the outcome of that new endeavor is always up in the air and it is nearly impossible to say just how things will turn out. However, for organizers of the Pahrump Music Festival, there was never any doubt that this event was going to draw a huge crowd and those expectations were borne out this past weekend.

Charity fundraiser set for Sunday

As stated on its social media site, the mission of Ronald McDonald House Charities of Greater Las Vegas is to create and support programs that directly improve the health, education, and well-being of children in communities throughout the country.

Animal abuse suspect arrested in Nye County

A man traveling to Pahrump from Reno is facing an animal abuse charge following his arrest on Friday, June 4.

Pahrump Valley’s veterans honored at appreciation BBQ

The first weekend of June was a sweltering one, with high temperatures making venturing forth a bit of a daunting task but for many members of the local veteran community and their friends, family and supporters, the weather did not stop them from heading out on Saturday to enjoy a few hours of food, fun and camaraderie during the annual Veterans Appreciation Barbecue.

Most minor traffic violations decriminalized in Nevada

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak on Tuesday signed a bill into law that decriminalizes most minor traffic offenses , classifying them instead as civil infractions.

Bill introduced in Senate to boost tourism sector

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., introduced bipartisan legislation in June that supports the travel and tourism industry.

Accidental overdoses increase in Nevada

Accidental overdoses increased in double-digit percentages in the state through part of 2019 and 2020, according to data released by the state.