Scott County residents and officials are preparing for life without a county hospital.
St. Mary's Scott County Hospital is scheduled to close at 12:01 a.m. May 24. A between the county and hospital operator HMA fell through last week, which would have kept the 25-bed facility open another 60 days.
Scott County Mayor Jeff Tibbals told 10News the hospital will likely close down Wednesday. However, he announced to residents during a county commission meeting Monday that six groups have expressed interest in possibly running the hospital sometime in the future.
"We're still doing everything within our means," he said.
Tibbals said two groups are interested in possibly buying the hospital. He said, at the highest end, the hospital is worth $4 million. But, by state law, that money would have to be spent on a health-related practice.
Monday's commission meeting had some other positive elements as well.
Scott County voted to accept a lease termination agreement with HMA. Under the agreement, the county will receive the license to the hospital. It will also get all hospital patients' medical records.
"It lets us reopen the hospital if we do find another operator," Tibbals said.
But, a number of concerns remain.
One of the biggest is how the county will deal with emergency affairs.
The Scott County Ambulance Service has only eight ambulance trucks. Those trucks, one of which has over 300,000 miles, will be forced to drive longer distances to get people the care they need.
According to Jim Reed, the Scott County Ambulance Director, the nearest two hospitals besides St. Mary's Scott Hospital are located in Campbell and Fentress counties. However, he said it is typically quicker for his ambulances to go to Tennova North in Powell instead.
Reed told Scott County residents his department is doing everything it can to prepare for the upcoming change.
"Eight [ambulance] trucks may not be enough, we don't know, we have never been through it before," he said.
Reed did said one neighboring county has offered an extra ambulance for Scott County to use if it needs it. He also said several other counties may give Scott County some of their crews as well.
This would not be first time Scott County has received help from during the current hospital situation. Since last week, UT has occasionally based a LifeStar helicopter in Scott County for emergency purposes.
Reed said while no long term deal has been worked out with UT, the university's medical center did say it would provide the same emergency services in Scott County Thursday.
The possible closure of St. Mary's Scott County Hospital worries many residents. Wanda Dunlap told 10News the hospital has routinely provided services to her 86-year-old mother Sarah Newport.
Ten years ago, Newport collapsed and started to bleed on her brain. Dunlap said it was an ambulance that took Newport to St. Mary's Scott County Hospital to provide her initial care. She said without the hospital, Dunlap likely would not have been well enough to get to Parkwest Hospital in West Knoxville to receive the surgery she needed to live.
"There's no way I could have made it to Knoxville in the car with her," she said.
Just before the hospital closes at midnight, May 24, St. Mary's staff will gather at the Scott County hospital for a prayer service in attempt to keep the facility open.