Workers seek help as Fentress County hospital doors remain closed

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JAMESTOWN, Tenn. (WATE) – The doors of Jamestown Regional Medical Center are still closed, meaning staff there are still unable to earn a paycheck.

The hospital lost critical federal funding last week needed to stay open. The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development sent a rapid response team to help those impacted workers.

The hospital’s new chief executive officer says he hopes to restore those critical Medicaid and Medicare dollars, and many hope those effort to reopen the hospital.

Debra Genchi works as a CT X-ray mammographer at the hospital. Genchi takes pride in what she does and where she does it.

“It’s never been just a job. It’s part of my life. You’re there for others and you know you’re life isn’t that bad when you see what others go through and you can help them,” she said.

Previous story: Troubled Jamestown hospital ‘temporarily closed’ after loss of Medicare payments

She came to the Fentress County Courthouse to learn more about her options.

“I’m a positive person. But at the same time, I’m scared. I’m terrified to what the future could hold,” she added.

While she hopes it reopens, she said she sincerely hopes it doesn’t reopen under its current owners.

“If you knew what we went through, what everybody’s gone through, the lies we’ve heard. No, I don’t do people in, word-wise, this is probably one of the first times for me in my life I can honestly say I’ve had enough,” she said.

Fentress County Executive Jimmy Johnson hopes the hospital reopens and says the workshop on applying for unemployment benefits isn’t needed.

“It is a main artery of income for Fentress county. It is a service for the health, the welfare and the safety of the people that are sick,” Johnson said.

He said the whole situation has been terrible, stemming back to January. He said that’s when he began getting complaints that workers’ W2s showed they didn’t have any withholding turned in under their current employer. He said they did, however, see reported withholding from their most recent owner, Tennova.

“They got up every morning and went to work for several years. They earned their money and the main thing is they had their withholding held out and it was never turned in,” he said.

Sean Monday, the regional director for the Dept. of Labor and Workforce Development, said their goal is to reach out, ahead of time, and bring down barriers to employment if the hospital were to permanently close.

Monday explained the response team can help by providing funds for travel, education, childcare, searching for a new job, updating resumes, fine tuning interviewing skills. Through state grants and partnerships, Monday said they can even help dislocated workers find education, training, and certain certifications.

Genchi believes she isn’t eligible for unemployment benefits because she just had a surgery that prevents her from actively seeking more work. Despite it all, she still smiles and cracks jokes because she said, “a lot of people have it worse.”

Previous story: Tennessee lawmaker bashes Jamestown hospital CEO, alleges theft, calls for prosecution

State Rep. John Mark Windle said earlier this week he wants an audit completed on the hospital, to see what was paid into the state and what was not. Windle heard from constituents some items were withheld from their checks, but never paid in. He even heard the issue was preventing some people from drawing any unemployment benefits.

Windle believes some of the responsibility lies with the state to help make the workers “whole” again because he believes it’s the state’s job to oversee any potential financial issues.

Rennova responded to our earlier questions surrounding their financial status in an e-mail:

“All unemployment related filings and taxes due to the State of TN for Jamestown hospital are filed and paid.

Health benefits remain current and any employees who we have recently separated with will remain covered through June 30th.

IRS payments totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars have been made by the Company and we have recently retained new tax attorneys to complete any outstanding filings that may need submission. The Company will satisfy any requirement for IRS payments that exists.

Jamestown Regional Medical Center, Inc. has initiated the process to get reinstated in the MC program and has submitted paperwork as guided by its legal team who continue to communicate and work diligently with CMS on the matter. We look forward to a successful outcome on this matter but have no control of the time frame that the relative parties will complete their part in the process.

The Company’s CEO, Seamus Lagan has this week retained a Tennessee based Law Firm that specializes in Defamation and Privacy Law and has instructed them to take whatever actions are permissible by law against a number of individuals who have made false and disparaging remarks or posted on a web based forum. Numerous mis-statements have been made by individuals, some of who should know better, and then repeated by press causing irreparable damage and cost.

The Company continues to invest in the Jamestown hospital and community through financial support from the Parent Company regardless of the current adversity and is confident that the longer term success of Jamestown hospital will confine the current months of turmoil to a short and contained period of history. We look forward to working with the many individuals and parties that are working constructively and quietly to ensure the return to provision of needed medical services and significant payroll income to the local community.”

Chris Harvey is a registered nurse at JRMC and has been for more than 24 years. He described the hospital and the people who work in it as a family he said he’s grown up with.

Harvey is hopeful the hospital could reopen, but like many familiar with recent corporate struggle, he believes it could change ownership.

Harvey showed up to the event Friday to apply for unemployment benefits. “I never thought I’d have to do it as a nurse in Fentress County,” he added.

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