Changes underway at Eureka hospital
By Samantha Jones
In 2019, the Eureka Springs Hospital Commission experienced perhaps the biggest year of change since 2007 when Allegiance Health Management took over Eureka Springs Hospital.
The developments involving the hospital are the No. 2 local news story for 2019 in Carroll County.
The changes started at the very beginning of the year, when the commission allocated $50,000 to keep the emergency room staffed after hearing that Allegiance wasn’t paying doctors and nurses on time.
Allegiance was also behind on rent, paying $75,000 to catch up by the end of January. In February, hospital CEO Vicki Andert announced her resignation. The commission kept pushing for improvements, hiring two qualified locals to inspect the hospital in March. Chairman John House said the inspections showed Allegiance has allegedly fallen behind on maintenance. Allegiance continued to fall behind, with the commission again allocating $50,000 to pay hospital employees in April.
On July 15, the commission agreed to send Allegiance a letter asking the company to take care of much-needed maintenance and repairs at the hospital. If Allegiance didn’t fix the problems in 30 days, House said, the commission could consider terminating the lease with 180 days of written notice.
By August, House said the commission had “zero reply” from Allegiance. House said Allegiance had until Aug. 21 to respond. No response would mean the commission could begin the process of terminating the lease agreement with Allegiance. Allegiance CEO Rock Bordelon did not return a call for comment but Allegiance placed an ad in the Aug. 22 edition of the Citizen saying the hospital has been surveyed “dozens of times” over the past 12 years by both federal and state surveyors and has passed all those inspections. Also in the ad, Allegiance asked “why would we want to continue operating in a community that obviously doesn’t want us there for whatever reasons.”
House reported in September that the commission was in limbo with Allegiance after receiving a response on Aug. 21 saying the repairs aren’t their responsibility. The commission sent another letter saying the company violated the terms of the lease and must respond by Oct. 18. When Allegiance did not respond, the commission agreed to take the case to court. At a special called meeting Nov. 9, the commission voted to hire Alliance Management Group to make the transition easier.
Alliance representatives Ryan Capshew and Darrell Parke had good news at the commission’s Dec. 16 meeting. Parke said Allegiance would be out of Eureka Springs by Feb. 1, and Capshew said Alliance is working on a recovery action plan in the meantime. Parke said he’s expecting the hospital to grow in 2020.
“We’re looking to heal wounds in the community and we’re looking to grow services,” Parke said. “We’re looking to correct issues that have been poorly handled.”
Commissioner Barbara Dicks said she’s excited to see the commission take over the hospital.
“It’s going to be city owned and operated,” Dicks said.
Commissioner Christopher Baranyk said the community supports the commission’s mission.
“They all want to go to this hospital,” Baranyk said, “but right now they’re like, ‘Where do I go when I’m sick?’ “
“My conversations with them have mostly been positive,” House said. “They’re excited about what’s happening.”