An East Tennessee hospital that's served its community for more than 50 years will close its doors Wednesday night, after months of negotiations to keep it open.
Scott County Hospital in Oneida will shut down the emergency room just after midnight.
The current operators of the hospital, Health Medical Associates (HMA), turned down an offer to keep it open for another 60 days last week.
The Women's Center was the last department to take admitted patients. The hospital stopped admitting emergency patients on Friday. The ER will stop taking trauma cases at 12:01 a.m. on May 24th.
The last patients to leave were Caleb Watkins, Latasha Meadows, and their new baby boy.
She was induced into labor early in order to have the baby at her home hospital.
"I didn't want to be sent off to a different hospital," Meadows said.
Now she's worried about taking her new baby home with the nearest ER 50 miles away.
"If he's running a high fever and the doctors offices are closed, what I am supposed to do?" she said.
Employees left the building in shifts Wednesday. For many of the more than 200 staff members, the hospital closing is not only a professional loss, but a personal one.
"When I look back at my life, it's been at this hospital," said head of the pharmacy department, Dr. Steve Leeds.
Dr. Leeds worked at the hospital for 27 years. His father was also one of the physicians who helped to start the hospital in 1955.
"He might cry as much as I have cried over the last week or two. It would be a sad day for him and all the physicians that have been a part of this hospital," Dr. Leeds said.
"It's like burying a friend. We've all grieved very much over it," said volunteer of 22 years Priscilla Chambers.
Staff members have organized a prayer vigil at midnight on Wednesday to pray for the future of the hospital.
Scott County officials say they have five interested parties that may want to operate the hospital.
More than 200 employees will lose their jobs with the hospital's closure, though the full-time workers will be paid until July. Scott County already has the state's highest unemployment rate.