Employees at the Prague Community Hospital missed another paycheck Friday.
The management company that runs the operations of the hospital that is owned by the City of Prague failed to make payroll payments for the second time in a matter of weeks. They missed a December payment, but received it a week later. No timetable has been released for when employees may expect to be paid for this payroll period although city officials are hopeful that the employees will receive their pay this weekend.
Many of the hospital employees are willing to work for free while the operational arrangement works itself out, however, they may not have that option much longer as the group, run by Jorge Perez, also failed to make a payment that was due for the malpractice insurance for professionals who work at the hospital.
"If that isn't worked out quickly, it will be a big problem," said Joe Vorndran, the attorney for the city of Prague. Vorndran said they believe there may be a 10-day grace period on the policy although the city is awaiting confirmation of that policy from the insurance company.
Another hospital run by Perez and his company went into receivership in Tennessee on Thursday. Vorndran said Prague had hoped that a hearing planned for Friday would have allowed Prague to follow suit.
Unfortunately for Prague, Perez and his attorneys pulled the case out of district court in Lincoln County and got it moved to federal court. Now the two sides will have to work out details of when both sides can be available for a hearing in the new venue.
"A decision will be made Monday when it is determined what the next step should be," Vorndran said.
Employees have reported that the management company has even stopped buying supplies for the hospital - which operates profitably. Employees have even been forced to hold fundraisers to purchase food for the patients' meals.
A Medicare reimbursement payment of $600,000 to $1 million for services provided at the hospital has been delayed. Vorndran said the city hopes that those funds can be identified out of the large sum of payments that the management company will receive from facilities across the country.
"The recent government shutdown delayed that reimbursement," Vorndran said.
Mayor Cliff Bryant said no meeting of the governing body has been planned, but that could change as the situation develops.
"The hospital means the world to our community," Bryant said. "Obviously, there are a lot of employees there but you can't put a price on the lives that can be saved by being treated here and not going 25 miles to the closest urgent care center."
This isn't a new problem, as Bryant said rural hospitals have struggled for years.
"But the past year or two here have seen those struggles increase," Bryant said.