REIDSVILLE, GA (WTOC) - Patients in Tattnall County could soon find themselves without a hospital. After years of financial up and downs, Tattnall Community Hospital may have to close its doors yet again, and this time might be for good.
Ann O'Briant has worked in the hospital for 20 years and believes it serves a purpose in the small community.
"I've seen this place save many, many lives," she explained. " As doctors have said, if they'd had to go five or ten more miles, they wouldn't make it."
For nearly a decade, WTOC has reported the close calls as the hospital closed, but opened under a series of private companies. James Stanger and his business partner took over three weeks ago and found some surprises.
"What we didn't realize was that some of the debt we thought would be covered was not covered so there were accounts payable not paid four to five months," Stanger detailed.
He says they're also hampered by the hospital's bad credit left by previous managers and Medicaid reimbursements. They've asked county commissioners to help underwrite $4 million in debt or they would be forced to close.
But county leaders say, in the eight years since the hospital went private, four companies have owned or managed it. They say they hadn't seen any updates until they were asked to foot a $4 million debt. County commission chairman Frank Murphy says taxpayer money can't be used to help a private owner without a public referendum.
"It's private debt, there's no private funding and there's no new plan. It's the same old thing," Murphy contended.
Murphy said he won't ask for a referendum without a new plan. Stanger said such a vote might come too late.
Stanger says the hospital could close by late April without any debt restructuring. They have 120 full- and part-time employees. The WTOC News team will bring you the latest as the story continues.