Hospital commission 'in limbo' with Allegiance Health Management
By Samantha Jones
After months of turmoil, the Eureka Springs Hospital Commission and Allegiance Health Management have begun communicating through legal counsel.
Chairman John House updated the commission on the situation with Allegiance on Monday night, remembering the commission's vote on Aug. 19 to terminate the lease agreement with Allegiance if the company didn't respond to a letter describing necessary hospital repairs by Aug. 21. House said Allegiance responded to the letter at 5 p.m. Aug. 21 saying much of the repairs aren't their responsibility.
"They felt like a lot of it didn't apply to them and that of the ones they felt were warranted," House said, "that they have either done them or are doing them within 30 days."
The 30-day timeline is a bit of a stretch, House said.
"The way [the lease is] written does not actually give them the automatic 30 extra days," House said. "It states that if there is a repair that is going to require longer than that initial 30 days, they're supposed to get with us and talk about how much time they're going to need. They didn't do that."
House said he recently visited the hospital to check on the state of the repairs.
"I asked several staff to see if they had noticed any changes, repairs, anything," House said. "Nobody seemed to indicate they had seen anyone with a hammer or anything else doing anything. I still saw quite a few deficiencies with the structure."
One such deficiency, House said, is that you can't see the hospital sign from Norris Street.
"It's so overgrown. They're not even mowing the yard," House said.
House said the commission's attorney has gone back and forth with Allegiance's legal counsel to determine which of the repairs will take longer than 30 days and why.
"We did not send them a termination letter, because it kind of became this gray area," House said. "Something they seem to really excel at is creating gray areas."
House said Allegiance has indicated they would be open to terminating the lease early if all parties can agree.
"The attorney has asked now … five times for them to give us a list of what they would want to do to get out of the lease," House said, "even though it's clearly stipulated in the contract what they need to do. They said they'd get back to us last Friday. They didn't do that."
House continued, "Then they were going to have it to us last Monday. They didn't do that. We're still playing this game with them. They're doing the absolute minimum. At this point, we are somewhat in limbo on this issue."
House said he's reached out to two building inspectors to return to the hospital to assess how Allegiance has responded to certain repairs.
"We need them to go back to the hospital … and say, 'This was done. This was not done,' " House said. "I think we're on a path that will lead to the termination of them as the management company."
House said he's been working with the commission's attorney to look at other possible breeches of the lease agreement.
Also at the meeting, the commission heard from House about the property at 25 Norris St., which once served as the office for a local doctor. The commission voted Aug. 19 to ask the city council to give the building back to the hospital but House said the council had reservations about that.
"They did point out we had lost control of that property, because we were not maintaining it," House said. "One of the city councilmen said, 'Hey, if you did have it, would you take care of it?' "
Treasurer Barbara Dicks moved to ask the council to give the building back to the commission so long as the commission promises to maintain the property and use it for medical purposes and the commission unanimously agreed to do so.
The commission's next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 21, at the ECHO community room.