In a time when most communities are looking to their local hospitals to be the first line of defense in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, Sherman's oldest operating hospital seems to be battling the bottom line.
Alecto Healthcare Services, the company that owns Wilson N. Jones Regional Medical Center, owes the Grayson County Tax Assessor Collector's office $675,808 for business personal property taxes for 2018 and 2019.
WNJ spokesperson Cathy Black said no one at the local level could speak about the tax issues. A call to Alecto's corporate office in California was not returned.
According to a statement from the GC Tax Assessor Collector Bruce Stidham WNJ's taxes are past due and are owed to the county, the Sherman Independent School District, the city of Sherman and the Grayson County College District.
Those taxing entities filed suit in August of 2019 in the 398th state district court for the 2018 taxes. And, Alecto has not answered that suit to date.
At the time that the suit was filed, Alect owed SISD a total of $228,404 which includes $166,901 in taxes and $61,503 in penalties. The suit shows that the county claimed Alecto owed it $44,717 in taxes and $16,478 in penalties for a total of $61,195. Sherman claimed that the hospital's owners owed the city $43,243 in taxes and $15,937 in penalties for a total of $59,185. The Grayson County Junior College District claimed that Alecto owes $17,948 in taxes and $6,614 in penalties for a total of $24,562.
The $675,808 also includes taxes and fees for the 2019 tax year.
At the end of 2019, of the outstanding tax debts owed to the county, Alecto's portion was no. 1 on the list.
Citing staffing issues, Wilson N. Jones Regional Medical Center laid off 30 members of hospital staff in March.
“WNJ's staffing levels exceeded productivity standards and staffing adjustments were necessary,” the hospital said in a statement to the Herald Democrat at the end of March.
The layoffs appear to have occurred toward the end of March. In total, about 30 positions were affected, WNJ officials said.
These positions were primarily in administrative and support roles including those with minimal hands-on involvement with patient care, officials said.
“WNJ values all of its employees and this difficult decision was made after evaluating all reasonable alternatives,” WNJ Human Resources Manager Bill Barrett said. “These changes have minimal impact on positions involved in hands-on patient care.”
Alecto Healthcare Services was formed in 2012 and bought WNJ in October of 2014.
Alecto owns hospitals in several states including West Virginia, Ohio, Texas and California. In the past several years, it has closed hospitals some of those places including Ohio Valley Medical Center in Wheeling and East Ohio Regional Hospital in Martins Ferry, Ohio, a little over six months ago.
While the world is in a health pandemic, WNJ is not the only Alecto hospital facing issues. Alecto announced plans to close Fairmont Regional Medical Center in Marion County, West Viriginia on Feb. 18 with a 60-day timeline for the doors to be closed. The hospital was closed before the 60 days were up.
Times West Virginian reports that the state's legislature asked the Attorney General to open an investigation into the company's business practices due to employees not being paid once the hospital was closed.
When the planned closing of the Fairmont Regional Medical Center was announced, its CEO Bob Adcock said the hospital had lost $19 million in the past three years.
Alecto bought WNJ from Texas Health Resources and LHP Hospital Group, which purchased it in April of 2010. In a press release announcing that purchase, the companies said Texas Health would own a majority equity interest in the joint venture that owns Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital-WNJ (WNJ) and LHP would manage the operation of the hospital. The release said Texas Health and LHP would share governance of the joint venture which will invest $25 million in capital improvements over the next four years.
At the time of that sale, the hospital was said to have had 241 licensed beds and a staff of 1,150 people and 190 affiliated doctors.
In 2015, WNJ sued THP over the way it ran the hospital. That suit was settled in May of 2016. The civil suit sought more than $6 million alleging that Texas Health Resources and LHP Hospital Group committed fraud when they failed to deliver on several promises to the WNJ board of trustees to get that board to sell the hospital in 2010. The board contended that the hospital had received offers for as much as $20 million more from other companies. The suit said the WNJ board relied upon Texas Health Resources reputation for running faith-based facilities dedicated to community health to make its decision.
That and, the suit said, the board relied on the deal's requirement that THR and LHP make $25 million worth of capital improvements to the hospital in the first five years of ownership and refrain from selling the hospital to any outside group for ten years.
However, the suit said, the capital improvements never reached the $25 million mark and THR and LHP notified WNJ board of their intent to sell the hospital in September 2014, well short of that 10-year period. THR and LHP sold Wilson N. Jones to Alecto Healthcare Services in October of that year. The suit also said that THR and LHP sold the medical office building located at WNJ Hospital for approximately $11 million in 2012 and never told the WNJ board how those funds were to be used.
The suit alleged that THR and LHP had a plan for getting out of the deal with the WNJ board before the ink was even dried on the contract covering the agreement.
THR and LHP both denied, in court documents reviewed by the Herald Democrat, all of the allegations set forth by WNJ.
Neither side of the suit ever released details about the settlement.