Big South Fork Medical Center was operating at full strength Thursday afternoon.
The hospital was taken off diversion Thursday morning, sources said, and began accepting emergency room patients once again.
Since the weekend, the Oneida hospital had been accepting ER walk-ins, while ambulance traffic had been diverted. Scott County EMS had been delivering patients to hospitals in LaFollette, Oak Ridge and Knoxville instead.
Scott County Mayor Jeff Tibbals confirmed Thursday afternoon that the hospital had been taken off diversion, and that the CT scanner was also up and running. An employee at the hospital said that admissions were also being accepted, and that all laboratory services were up and running.
The hospital has fallen on perilous times in recent weeks, beginning with the latest instance of delayed payroll. Two weeks ago, the hospital’s MedSurge unit closed due to a lack of staffing, and the situation reached its bleakest point over the weekend when the hospital was placed on diversion.
However, the employee said, “Everything is operating as usual now.”
The hospital’s strapped-for-cash parent company, Rennova Health, has been under increased scrutiny by state and federal lawmakers as its financial situation has worsened. Jamestown Regional Medical Center closed last summer after being stripped of its ability to be reimbursed for Medicare and Medicaid patients by the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Rennova has pledged to reopen the facility, but the JRMC license remains inactive.
The Oneida facility, and its sister hospital in Jellico, Jellico Community Hospital, have not run into trouble with CMS but payroll issues and, at times, a lack of supplies, have been concerns at those facilities.
Last summer, State Representative John Mark Windle, D-Livingston, created waves when he publicly referred to Rennova CEO Seamus Lagan as an “Irish gangster,” calling him a “crook” and insisting on an investigation.
Lagan has since sued Windle for defamation; the lawsuit is scheduled for trial in early 2021, though Windle is seeking to have it thrown out by claiming legislative privilege, a state constitutional protection that shields lawmakers who make comments in an official capacity.
Last week, U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., joined the fray with a letter to Lagan demanding answers to a series of questions by February 11. Blackburn recently visited Scott County and met with Tibbals at the county’s municipal airport in Oneida.
Meanwhile, sources inside BSFMC have repeatedly said that the facility will be fine once it finds stable economic footing. The hospital’s CEO, Hal Leftwich, told members of the Scott County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors last month that the hospital has cleared the first licensure step towards becoming a critical access hospital, which would equate to more than $2 million per year in additional revenue for the facility.