'We can't do this forever': 8 nurses doubling as janitors at Oklahoma hospital on brink of closure

The COVID-19 pandemic could scuttle the sale of Haskell County Community Hospital in Stigler, Okla., a bankrupt hospital that is relying on a skeletal staff to keep its doors open, according to ProPublica

Haskell County Community Hospital is one of several hospitals previously owned by Kansas City, Mo.-based EmpowerHMS that filed for bankruptcy last year. The 25-bed hospital entered bankruptcy in March 2019. In October, the hospital laid off 85 percent of its staff and ended most services. 

The hospital, operating only as an emergency department during the bankruptcy process, is down to eight nurses who double as a cleaning crew, an office manager and a part-time maintenance worker. The facility barely meets state and federal laws requiring the ED to be staffed with at least two nurses and an on-call physician, according to ProPublica

"We know we can't do this forever," Andrea Randall, RN, one of the nurses left at the hospital told ProPublica. Ms. Randall, who also serves as the hospital's interim administrator, said she is praying for a new owner to acquire the hospital. 

A company bid $200,000 in January to buy Haskell County Community Hospital out of bankruptcy. The sale was slated to close in March, but the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed the deal. The company can no longer afford to operate the hospital and is waiting on federal stimulus money to help finance the purchase, according to ProPublica, which cited court documents.

Thomas Waldrep, the trustee overseeing the transaction, said earlier this month that he expected the sale of the hospital to close by the end of April. As of April 21, he couldn't provide a specific closing date, according to the report. 

If the sale falls through, Mr. Waldrep would have to secure a new buyer or close the hospital. 

Access the full ProPublica article here

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