Platinum Health laid off hundreds of workers in two Missouri cities


the news, Under the Noble Health LetterIt arrived at 5:05pm on Friday, with the subject line: “Urgent Notice” Audrey Community Hospital, Paul Human’s workplace of 32 years, was laying off employees.

Word travels fast in a small town. Huemann’s wife, Kim, first heard the bad news in the car when a friend who found the letter also texted it.

“Your termination was not foreseeable.” says the letter.Written on September 8 and signed by Platinum Health Systems, he said the firing was “permanent without reason” and “the medical facility will be closed.”

“I don’t know what my next steps are,” said Humann, 52, who was in charge of a laboratory at Audrain Hospital.

For the Huemanns, hundreds of other workers and thousands of patients in two small Missouri towns, the future began to unravel that afternoon. The drama playing out in Paul Human’s hometown is familiar to many in rural America: communities so desperate to keep their hospitals open that they’re willing to gamble on any buyer, including those backed by private equity.

Sometimes they lose.

Noble Health, a three-year-old private equity-backed startup, acquired Audrey and nearby Callaway Community Hospital during the outbreak. In March, it suspended all hospital services and laid off 181 workers. State records show.

Noble — facing staggering debt, more than a dozen lawsuits and at least two federal investigations — reached an agreement in April to sell the hospitals to Texas-based Platinum Neighbors, which merged with it. Platinum Group Management and platinum health systems. At the end of June Platinum asked Missouri officials have extended the deadline to reopen hospitals to Sept. 21. Platinum officials told KHN on Tuesday that they had asked Missouri regulators for an additional 30-day extension “on behalf of Noble” to “try to explore all options to reopen these facilities,” according to Platinum marketing director Ryan Gordon. “Employee back pay and health benefits are very important.”

Hours before the permit deadline on Wednesday, Platinum asked 90 days apart. Missouri guidelines do not allow another extension within a year, said Lisa Cox, spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. So the state “worked with them” and accepted the request, she said.

Platinum said the hospitals need time to complete construction projects. Windows in Audrey’s “emergency room area” are broken, and Callaway Hospital needs “critical plumbing repairs,” according to the state’s approval letter. The hospitals can change ownership within 90 days, Cox said.

Corey Landman, president of Platinum Health Systems, confirmed that the rest of the hospital staff had been terminated. “We are working with several partners to open the hospitals,” he said.

That may include a new owner. One prospect is Georgia-based Owen Shuler, who said he is considering buying them. “I like what I see,” said Schuler, reached by phone after visiting rural communities.

“It’s very unfortunate what happened,” said Shuler, whose companies include. Banks Realty Corp. And Shuler Capital Corporation. If he buys the hospitals, he will take up his new role as managing director of KERN Global, he said. “In terms of due diligence, I don’t like what I see and learn,” he said. The review concluded that “private equity and venture capital should stay out of healthcare.”

Schuller said on his LinkedIn profileA family-owned skilled nursing business brings a lifelong perspective“Also expertise in “telemedicine and healthcare services”.

“I’m not ready to sign off on a business strategy yet,” said Schuller, who noted the hospitals are heavily indebted — in the “ballpark” of $45 million to $50 million. He says his approach is “holistic” and includes telehealth. Many industry leaders have argued that telehealth is a way to bring high-quality medicine to rural communities, for those who can’t afford it and don’t need on-site specialists.

“Our goal is to find hospitals in rural, disadvantaged areas and promote our capabilities to them,” Schuller said, adding that fixing the two “fundamentally broken” Missouri hospitals from the bottom up would be “much easier than trying to get into a healthy system.” He said.

Still, it’s unclear whether Schuler or another buyer will come along, and what it will take to reopen them after years of ownership uncertainty and financial woes.

Venture capital and private equity firm Nuetra Capital Noble Inc December 2019 Along with executives who had never worked at a hospital, including co-founder Donald R. Peterson, who had been indicted for Medicare fraud before joining Noble. Peterson He settled the matter They agreed to be in August 2019 without believing a mistake. It is not included for five years From Medicare, Medicaid and other federal health programs, according to the Office of Inspector General of Health and Human Services.

Federal regulators did not block the purchase in which Peterson was involved. “All ownership and regulatory information is self-reported,” said Kristen Clemens, spokeswoman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

It didn’t take long for problems to arise under Noble Health’s management. Noble has received nearly $20 million in federal Covid-19 relief funds, including $4.8 million from wage protection programs, public records show.

Christmas Doctors, nurses and patients He saw evidence that the new owners were skimping on services – failing to pay for and stock up on surgical supplies and medicines. In Callaway, state regulators ruled that out Conditions in hospitals put patients at risk. Former employees have shown KHN accounts and payment documents, he said Noble also stopped paying. Benefits for employee health, dental, vision and life insurance.

After employees complained about the sudden medical bills, the Employee Benefits Security Administration said it launched an investigation in early March. A letter to the company and acquired by KHN. The department also confirmed a second investigation into Noble’s management of Audrain Hospital and Clinic in another division, Wage and Hour.

In April, Noble struck a deal to sell both hospitals for $2 a share and transfer all the debt to Platinum, which took on all of the debt. According to the agreement. In the letter of June 22 Regarding the hospitals’ licensing regulators, Platinum said, “We are requesting that Noble Health’s stock be continued as it has been transferred to Platinum Medical Management.”

During a visit to hospitals in April, Countryman told the workers that paying the wages they owed Noble was a “priority”.

In the months since, neither Noble nor Platinum have done much better than that, the workers argue. In addition to the federal investigations, nine salary claims – the largest for $ 355,000 – were filed against Noble in Kansas, according to the statement. Data is provided Through a Kansas Open Records Act request.

At the beginning of August, others became aware of the employee’s grievances. Principal who offered dental and vision care coverage; A letter has been sent. For workers who say they no longer want any workers to pay for the insurance they cover after Noble stops paying premiums for worker coverage. “This situation is not uncommon,” spokeswoman Ashley Miller wrote in an email.

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Paul Human, former laboratory supervisor at Audrain Community Hospital in Mexico, Missouri, was recently fired after the hospital’s parent company announced it was suddenly closing the facility.

Human, as lab supervisor, was among the employees who were not angry that spring. They report to work every day in hopes that Audrey’s hospital will reopen. Huemann tested reagents and made machines work even when money was tight for supplies.

“We couldn’t find anything,” Hooman said. So we were living with what we had,” he said.

Human, who provided KHN with pay stubs, said he received a paycheck from Noble in late March. He said he did not receive another salary until the end of May. Received regular payments in June and early July. But the second July check was a week late under Platinum. His last salary was due on August 8th and was late.

The last seven checks are from three companies. They were all on Platinum Hour: First Platinum Neighbors gave checks, then Callaway County Community Hospital and finally Noble Health Audrey Inc.

“Everyone cashed the check as soon as they got it,” Hooman said. “There are so many red flags. But you know, we’re at their mercy, we have no control, and we’re thankful they’re still saving us.”

Check stubs show the hospital operators deducted a total of $1,385 from Huemann for insurance payments. Medical insurance was supposed to be with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas, but Human said he never received a card and couldn’t verify coverage.

“I called four or five times on different days,” he said. No matter how hard they looked, they could never find me from Social Security or my date of birth or anything else.

Countryman directs all financial inquiries to Platinum’s corporate offices. Ryan Cole, CEO of Platinum Group, did not immediately respond to calls and emails seeking comment.

As the riots engulfed hospitals, some doctors left the city.

Others, like family medicine doctor Diane Jacoby and nurse Regina Hill, have joined University of Missouri-affiliated MU Health Care in Mexico, Missouri, a town of 11,000 where Audrein Community Hospital is located.

Jacoby said her patients want local care. “I don’t know if you’re a mom, but if you’re in labor, the thought of having to spend 45 minutes in the car on the way to the hospital is nerve-wracking,” she said. “It’s safer if you have care.”

Lou Leonati, a lawyer based in Mexico, said he feels bad that the company gave Noble a loan last year so it could meet payroll because the community needed a hospital and emergency care. Leonati’s personal loan of $60,000, with an interest rate of about 3%, was due in January but remains unpaid.

Leonati helped launch Project Sunrise, a local economic development group. If a new deal isn’t reached, he said, “we want to have a Plan B.”

Peterson, It helped to start Noble’s failed attempt to turn over the two Missouri hospitals appears to have found a Plan B in Dubai. At the age of 68, I sat in the Emirates airport in Dubai, marveling at my experience. He wrote on LinkedIn. “I will be in Riyadh next week, completing my due diligence to start a new business there.”

The post angered Tonya Lintakum, a nurse practitioner who has worked at Audrey’s cancer screening center for more than two decades. “He destroyed a lot of people’s lives and livelihoods,” she said, “to have someone deceive you like that” and “it’s going without any consequences.” It’s not the way the world should be,” he said.

Peterson declined to comment.

KN (Kaiser Health News) is a national news division that produces in-depth journalism on health issues. Along with policy analysis and polling, KHN is one of the three major work programs on the KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is a non-profit organization that provides information to the nation on health issues.





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