Harriman, Roane County (WVLT) - Roane County is growing, but its hospital and clinic are having a tough time paying the bills.
So much so, Volunteer TV's Gordon Boyd tells us, that Harriman city leaders are considering getting out of the health care business.
TennCare covered a lot of the bills for low-income patients.
One hospital board member tells WVLT TennCare cuts have cost Roane Medical Center about a million dollars a year.
So, rather than ask taxpayers for a bailout, the board, and Harriman City Council, are looking for a partner, maybe a buyer.
“The ambulances, there's hardly a day goes by without somebody have to go to the hospital,” says Harriman resident William Blank. “Because Harriman is a town that has a lot of invalids and old people, sure they need a hospital here.”
Folks may know it by other names, but Roane Medical Center has been Harriman's hospital since before World War II.
“It's a good hospital, I've taken her to Children's Hospital before, but I've had her here too,” says grandmother Barbara Joiner. “But I think it needs to be upgraded.”
Knoxville's Covenant Health isn't going public with specifics yet, but it's proposing a “strategic partnership” to offer Roane County the latest medical technology and expanded health care services.
“We can support a full scale hospital, we have supported one in year's past, and that's what we need for this county,” says Harriman Mayor-Elect Chris Mason.
Harriman's Mayor-Elect agrees, Roane Medical can't grow on its present site. And Covenant already owns the medical complex across the street. But if the plan is to build bigger, and better, somewhere else, he wants guarantees, "that we have enough legal advice to make sure that they go through, with what they say.”
Covenant's latest news release cites a long track record of helping communities grow hospitals and medical staffs to help them keep health care close to home.
“I think they'll see that Roane County is booming, we've got a lot of lake front development going on, and a full scale hospital will have enough business, we're growing at a rate that will keep them busy,” says Mason.
For some Roane Countians, new and improved, can't come soon enough.
“I've been in the emergency room, eight, six, seven hours before I've been taken care of,” says Blank. “We're looking at all the options, that if we need to bid the service out, that we'll do that.”