A second rural hospital owned by West Palm Beach, Fla.-based Rennova Health is millions of dollars behind on taxes and reportedly diverting patients to other facilities.
Rennova owes $2.3 million in unpaid federal taxes related to its Big South Fork Medical Center in Oneida, Tenn., according to tax liens the Internal Revenue Service filed with Scott County, where Oneida is located. Scott County's mayor said Rennova is also behind on local taxes, and the hospital is sending ambulances elsewhere because the company stopped paying employees, and now doesn't have enough people to staff its emergency department.
It's a similar chain of events that took place prior to Rennova closing its hospital in Jamestown, Tenn., in June 2019, after the CMS revoked its billing privileges. The hospital had been critically short of supplies after Rennova racked up at least $4 million in unpaid bills to vendors, who subsequently stopped delivering drugs, blood and other key supplies.
A CMS inspection report on the Jamestown hospital showed it had worked out a repayment plan with the IRS over unpaid taxes, but did not say how much Rennova owed. The report also said several employees had federal taxes withdrawn from their paychecks that were never deposited into Social Security accounts.
Scott County Mayor Jeff Tibbals said he learned of the diversion Tuesday morning. He emailed Big South Fork Medical Center's administrator to ask about the diversion but has not heard back. Multiple calls and emails to hospital administration and Rennova leaders were not returned Wednesday.
Last week, Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) sent a letter to Rennova's CEO, Seamus Lagan, asking whether his company truly has the expertise to run a hospital. She demanded answers to that and other questions by Feb. 11. Her office had not received a response as of Wednesday.
Tibbals said the hospital has been a "revolving door" in recent years, with different owners taking it over and then leaving.
"I've been dealing with this mess for 10 years now," he said.
But the hospital, which Tibbals said employed around 130 people at its height, is crucial to the community's economy. Retirees depend on access to a hospital, as does the area's tourism industry. Scott County is a popular destination for kayaking, mountain biking and horseback riding.