Legal Issues Slowing Efforts to Re-Open Sharp County's Only Hospital

AUGUST 3, 2005 - Posted at 4:50 p.m. CDT

CHEROKEE VILLAGE, AR - Residents in Sharp County are still anxiously waiting for their only local hospital to re-open and provide healthcare.

The Eastern Ozarks Medical Center was suddenly shutdown last December after inspectors found health code violations in the hospital's lab.  Another company eventually purchased the facility, planning to re-open it.

However,  legal snags are now jeapordizing the possibility of that happening.

"It was my understanding that they (the new owners) purchased the debts right along with the hospital that was owed, and this debt was owed prior to them purchasing the hospital," said Sharp County Sheriff Dale Weaver, who explained that debt amounted to $21,000. The money still hasn't been paid.

So, the Sheriff's Department was forced, by law, to oversee a sale of the hospital's equipment at a public auction.

"All we were planning on doing is selling what it took to satisfy this debt," said Weaver.

Hospital co-owner Jim Cheek, got a court stay to stop the sale, but not without a cost, according to the sheriff.

"You don't just get a stay on these things, without being able to put up something.  Your going to have to put up a bond to the court to assure that it's going to be taken care of, if they're gonna' stop this thing," said Weaver.

The bond, in the amount of $22,000 was set on July 22, still remains unpaid.  "As of today, it still hasn't been posted," said the Sheriff.

Meanwhile, an August 22 court date has been set, at which time a judge will determine whether the facility's new owner should pay the debt or not.

K8 News attempted to reach the hospital's new owners, but they were not available for comment, nor was their attorney.