JAMESTOWN, Tenn. (WATE) – Jamestown Regional Medical Center officially lost critical federal dollars a week ago from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. One day later, the hospital had a sign posted on its door saying it was “temporarily closed”.
A letter sent Tuesday to the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, signed by Rep. John Mark Windle (R-District 41), Rep. Kelly Keisling (R-District 38), and Sen. Ken Yager (R-District 12), asked ”whether or not Rennova Health Systems filed a worker adjustment and retaining notification,” but that isn’t all lawmakers want to know.
Windle, specifically, also wants audits of individual accounts to review all claims for unemployment compensation and to determine employee eligibility, short-term disability, health insurance, unemployment insurance, and federal income payments.
Wendle decided to make the inquires after receiving numerous calls from constituents, saying they couldn’t draw unemployment benefits because their employer, Jamestown Regional, didn’t pay in for them. He did say some employees who worked at the hospital under its previous owner Tennova could draw because they did pay in employee contributions.
He also said those friends are receiving letters of interest from the federal government threatening prosecution for not paying their federal income taxes, although he said they were deducted from their checks. Now, Wendle wants the state to step in and protect the people impacted.
He said Tennessee has an obligation to “hold these employees harmless” because he said it’s the state’s obligation to oversee and provide guidance when an employer is failing to meet their financial and legal.
“I expect the state of Tennessee to make these employees whole,” he said. “We’ve got to make this right. It’s not fair for people who have children in high school and college and have bills to pay for some thief to come into Tennessee and take these people’s money and mistreat them when they go to work every day and provide services for people.”
He didn’t mince words when speaking about the hospital’s corporate owner Rennova Health’s president and CEO Seamus Lagan.
“He’s simply a thief and should be prosecuted,” Windle said.
He added “Unfortunately, an Irish gangster was allowed to buy the Jamestown Regional Medical Center. Since that time, he has constantly cheated the employees and mismanaged the hospital to such degree that it’s no longer viable. He didn’t pay federal income tax withholding, he didn’t pay unemployment compensation, as he’s required to by both federal and state law and he has yet to be prosecuted.”
A spokesperson with Rennova sent a statement to WATE 6 On Your Side:
I do not have specific detail on the items you refer to but would be happy to get some facts and get back to you if you wish. To the best of my knowledge a new financial team and management have been asked to ensure that items like those you mention get priority in review and attention if needed. We have engaged our own “task force” to review and if necessary correct these matters immediately.
We have no comment on the State representatives requests you mention or numerous other comments being made in the public domain and continue to work to resolve all issues at the hospital so that it can return to normal operation. It is unfortunate that so much effort is exerted to vilify the company and individuals that continue to invest in the community, without consideration of all the facts that have caused the current turmoil. A more productive route would have been a united effort to work to resolve the need for employment and medical service this hospital provided to the community. We welcome communication with any authorized party on the areas you mention.
While Rep. Wendle hopes the hospital reopens, he hopes it’s under new ownership.
“Fentress County is a viable community. We’ve had a hospital there for six decades. It certainly can support a hospital. We have to have a hospital for economic development and for the health of our citizens,” he said.
He said the Tennessee Commissioner of Health assured the certificate of need and license at the site will be held open, to allow another buyer to operate the hospital.
He believes the biggest problem facing rural hospitals is the state not passing Medicaid expansion. He said Wednesday the legislature should follow the lead of other surrounding states, like Kentucky and Arkansas, and work with the Trump administration to develop a market-based solution in Tennessee to expand Medicaid.
The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development is sending a rapid response team to the Fentress County Courthouse Friday. From 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. They’ll be there to help employees update job resumes, find benefits, other work, and retraining opportunities.