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ONEIDA (WATE) - After talks with one buyer failed, a new potential buyer has come forward with an offer to purchase the Scott County Hospital.
A bid to reopen the Oneida hospital failed last month when a potential buyer, SM Promen, was unable to come up with financing to purchase the hospital by the Feb. 28 deadline.
The missed deadline was after an initial Jan. 31 deadline had also passed. County commissioners voted to extend the deadline once, but the deal still fell through.
County Mayor Jeff Tibbals announced a potential solution Monday evening.
Tibbals says there is a letter of intent for Pioneer Health Services to take over and reopen the hospital.
Commissioners would still need to vote to approve the letter of intent, expected to be finalized on Wednesday. The vote on the letter is expected to take place at the commission's meeting next Monday.
If Pioneer is chosen, Tibbals says he anticipates the hospital could open in July or August.
"Right now, I think our best choice in the timeframe is definitely going with Pioneer, just due to their history with the county, what they know and what their timelines on getting the doors open," said Scott County Mayor Jeff Tibbals.
Commission would still need to approve a purchase agreement then submit it to the Attorney General's office for approval. Once the AG approves a contract, Pioneer anticipates opening the facility within 45 to 60 days.
Pioneer plans to re-open all hospital departments, including opening an extended hours physician clinic, which will be located in the current ER. With an estimate of hiring 25 employees (depending on volume)
The purchase agreement has Pioneer assuming the USDA loan of $100,000 for the medical office building.
The county will sell the brick and mortar to Pioneer for $100.000. This would include the deed to the healthcare facility previously leased.
Pioneer Health Services is the premier provider of superior and compassionate healthcare services to rural communities, according to its website. Pioneer is based in Magee, Mississippi, and currently operates three hospitals.
There is growing frustration all around Scott County as residents continue to face the hardships of not having a local hospital.
"It's all about the money, instead of that people," said Mary Blevins of Oneida. "You've got the elderly people, you've got the young kids that's really needing the local hospitals instead of going to another county."
At The Circle of Life, an OB-GYN, doctors who care for expectant mothers are unable to deliver babies in the county.
"There's nowhere for them to deliver right now," said Brianne Upchurch.
Upchurch not only works at Circle of Life, but she's also seven months pregnant.
She's due in April, and even though she receives her prenatal care in Scott County, she'll have to travel at least 45 minutes to get to the nearest hospital to give birth.
"This is where we live. You get to trust people, especially in a small town. Everyone knows everybody else. When you trust somebody, you all the sudden, you have to up and leave and find someone else to deliver," she said.
With Scott County having the highest unemployment rate in the state, people are counting on the jobs the reopened hospital can provide.
"They've not been in a hurry this long. They need to be. There needs to be more jobs opened up in Scott County," she said.
Once called St. Mary's Hospital of Scott County, the hospital closed last May after the county's contract with former operator HMA ran out and was not renewed.