30 April 2012

Sale of Cheboygan Hospital Back On

Story first appeared in The Record Eagle.

Federal bankruptcy hearings scheduled for today could lead to the reopening of Cheboygan Memorial Hospital, which unexpectedly idled 400 people four weeks ago after federal regulatory issues halted its sale.

The hearings before a Judge in Bay City are expected to clear the way for Flint-based McLaren Health Care Corp. to buy the hospital, which is located in sparsely populated northern lower Michigan.

The hospital announced March 1 that it was filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after losing more than $7 million last year. It closed unexpectedly April 3 after a $5 million sale to McLaren fell through over licensing issues for Medicare and Medicaid services.

A community coalition organized a rally outside the hospital last Monday that drew about 2,500 residents, business leaders, nurses and other employees to support the reopening of the hospital, which served the area for seven decades and was Cheboygan County's largest employer.

Those at the rally cheered when a McLaren executive told them McLaren had just reached a deal with U.S. officials and hoped to complete the purchase soon. No reopening date has been set, but those involved in the process say they are hopeful it will happen within days or weeks.

An attorney for McLaren said that she thought it would take seven to 10 days, optimistically. The facility has been closed for approximately 30 days and there's obviously a lot of things that need to be done.

A lawyer for the Michigan Nurses Association, said she thinks it will take about two weeks, adding that what needs to be done takes time. It's also unclear how many people would get their jobs back. McLaren already has rehired about 50 people to work at clinics at the hospital's sites in Cheboygan, Pellston and Petoskey, the Cheboygan Daily Tribune reported.

While the emergency room and clinics are expected to reopen, no plan is in place to fully restore other inpatient care.

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