A not-for-profit healthcare system will open an emergency center this week at an eastern Texas hospital closed two years ago by Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp.
But Nashville-based Columbia is standing in the way of East Texas Medical Center Regional Healthcare System's hope of eventually reopening Gilmer (Texas) Medical Center as an acute-care hospital.
When the Tyler, Texas-based system acquired the Gilmer facility from Columbia earlier this year, the purchase agreement barred the system from reopening the 34-bed site as a full-service acute-care hospital.
ETMC will open the 24-hour center at the old Gilmer site and refer serious trauma cases to the system's nine other hospitals in the region.
The system is spending about $200,000 on the emergency center project, which will include the use of laboratory and radiology services. Eventually, portions of the facility will be used for outpatient services.
"The portion of the hospital that was used before is what we have moved into," said Kim Pearson, corporate vice president of emergency and trauma services for ETMC.
The move comes a few weeks after Richard Scott, Columbia's chairman and chief executive officer, reiterated his company's stand on Gilmer.
"There's not sufficient patient demand in that area," Scott said at Columbia's annual shareholder meeting last month in Nashville, after a Gilmer resident questioned him about the closure.
Columbia inherited Gilmer Medical Center when it acquired Healthtrust in March 1995. Health-trust bought Gilmer from Dallas-based Baylor Health Care System in January 1993. Baylor had threatened to close the money-losing hospital in 1992.
Deed restrictions implemented by Columbia when it closed the hospital in September 1995 bar Gilmer from reopening as an acute-care hospital. The nearest hospital is owned by Columbia-about 25 miles south of Gilmer in Longview.
ETMC executives say there's a demand in the community and are hoping to negotiate an agreement with Columbia.
"There is a hope that those (deed restrictions) would be changed," Pearson said. "I think there is a glimmer of hope that Columbia will see that need."