News and Music Discovery
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Henry County Commission, hospital board review proposed terms of HCMC lease

Lyle Parsons speaks to Henry County commissioners and the Henry County Medical Center Board of Trustees at a meeting on May 30.
Hannah Saad
Lyle Parsons speaks to Henry County commissioners and the Henry County Medical Center Board of Trustees at a meeting on May 30.

Officials in Henry County are in negotiations to lease a struggling local hospital to a public medical group in the hopes of maintaining vital healthcare access in the northwestern Tennessee community.

Henry County commissioners, along with the Henry County Medical Center Board of Commissioners, reviewed last week the terms of a Letter of Intent to transfer operations and lease the hospital to West Tennessee Healthcare, a non-profit healthcare system.

In late March, HCMC board trustees recommended leasing the hospital’s management operations to West Tennessee Healthcare, which runs over 90 medical service locations – including hospitals, emergency rooms, family medicine and primary care centers, among other services – in Tennessee and Missouri.

Because HCMC is county-owned, the decision to lease the hospital ultimately lies with the Henry County Commission.

The Paris Post-Intelligencer reports that the northwestern Tennessee medical center has been losing around $10 million per year over the last several years.

Lyle Parsons, an HCMC clinical pharmacist, was one of several employees that gave public comments to the county officials Thursday. He said leasing the medical center to West Tennessee Healthcare was the best viable option to keep the hospital’s doors open.

“Imagine this community without a hospital. Many of the 700 employees would be forced to leave and the county would lose these income earners and the sales and property tax that they provide,” Parsons said. “Many retirees in poor health would be forced to leave and retirees thinking of relocating would not consider Paris without quality hospital care.”

Under the terms proposed, Henry County would transfer operations to a subsidiary of the public medical group and lease HCMC’s real property to West Tennessee Healthcare for 25 years. The medical group would then make rent payments equal to HCMC’s debt service.

At the end of that lease period, West Tennessee Healthcare would take ownership of the property, unless Henry County exercises an option to buy back the hospital operations.

West Tennessee Healthcare also proposed a commitment to providing healthcare services in Henry County for 40 years, 15 years longer than its proposed lease agreement.

Angela Humphreys, an attorney with Tennessee-based law firm Bass, Berry & Sims PLC, is negotiating an agreement with West Tennessee Healthcare on behalf of Henry County and the HCMC board. She said the group’s healthcare services commitment includes a seven-year agreement to provide inpatient services, surgical services, imaging, outpatient physician services and emergency department services – with the caveat that those services are financially viable, supported by the community and that there is necessary physician coverage available.

What is not guaranteed, however, is obstetrics, cardiology or oncology. While HCMC and affiliated clinics currently offer heart and cancer treatment options, the hospital suspended obstetric services last September due to financial restraints.

“[West Tennessee Healthcare] indicated that, you know, if they can do [those services], they would love to do it, but they're not willing to make a commitment to do it,” Humphreys told the board and commission members.

Humphreys said, if the county wants to move forward with the deal, the commission would need to sign the Letter of Intent by July 1. Then, following a state approval process reviewing the agreement, the deal could officially close on Oct. 1.

Hannah Saad is the Assistant News Director for WKMS. Originally from Michigan, Hannah earned her bachelor’s degree in news media from The University of Alabama in 2021. Hannah moved to western Kentucky in the summer of 2021 to start the next chapter of her life after graduation. Prior to joining WKMS in March 2023, Hannah was a news reporter at The Paducah Sun. Her goal at WKMS is to share the stories of the region from those who call it home. Outside of work, Hannah enjoys exploring local restaurants, sports photography, painting, and spending time with her fiancé and two dogs.
Related Content