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Henry County Medical Center recommends leasing management to West Tennessee Healthcare; awaits final decision from county

Representatives with West Tennessee Healthcare including president and CEO James Ross (right) presented to the Henry County Medical Center on March 28.
Mason Galemore
Representatives with West Tennessee Healthcare including president and CEO James Ross (right) presented to Henry County Medical Center on March 28.

Henry County Medical Center in Paris, Tennessee could soon come under new management if the county commission approves a recommendation from the hospital’s board of trustees.

After hearing a presentation on March 28 from West Tennessee Healthcare, a public medical group that runs nearly over 90 medical service locations, including seven hospitals, in 19 counties across west Tennessee and southeast Missouri, HCMC’s trustees recommended that the county lease the hospital’s management operations to the larger healthcare entity.

The leasing decision comes as HCMC, which is owned by Henry County, has faced financial struggles, which forced the medical center to shut its obstetrics unit last September.. The closure came as ob units across the country have been shutting down for more than a decade.

Dr. Pamela Evans is a gynecologist and obstetrician for the hospital. She said the absence of the OB unit has forced pregnant women in the region to travel to healthcare centers in neighboring states where they have to pay more out-of-state medical expenses.

“Rural medicine is such a challenge everywhere,” Evans said. “When our OB unit closed, we became a maternal desert and we know that maternal mortality and neonatal mortality is so much higher in these areas where women don’t have rapid access to care.”

Representatives with the Jackson-based healthcare system discussed the possibility of reopening HCMC’s OB unit as well as expanding its cardiology unit.

According to the Paris Post-Intelligencer, West Tennessee Healthcare’s proposed lease would pay enough money to the county to pay off the medical center’s current debts, which are between $20 million and $30 million.

James Ross is the president and CEO of West Tennessee Healthcare. During last week’s meeting, he said the healthcare group wants to retain HCMC’s local, small-town values.

“Savannah [Tennessee] and Paris hospitals have to survive,” Ross said during the presentation. “We believe the culture and the people are what you all should rejoice and be happy about.”

John Tucker, the CEO of HCMC, said he supports the board of trustees’ recommendation to move forward with West Tennessee Healthcare.

“They really geographically make the most sense and we really appreciate their culture and their dedication to trying to keep rural healthcare local. We’re excited about that,” he said.

The committee presented the recommendation to the Henry County Commission on April 1. . According to the Paris Intelligencer, county officials want more time to review the healthcare management group’s proposal for a 40-year lease.

West Tennessee Healthcare representatives plan to attend the next Henry County Commission meeting on April 15.

Mason Galemore is a Murray State student studying journalism. He was the editor-in-chief of his high school newspaper. Since then has explored different publication avenues such as broadcasting. He hopes to travel as a journalist documenting conflict zones and different cultures. He remembers watching the Arab Spring in 2011 via the news when he was a kid, which dawned in a new age of journalism grounded in social media. His favorite hobbies are hiking, photography, reading, writing and playing with his Australian Shepard, Izzy. He is originally from Charleston, Missouri.
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