ONEIDA, Tenn. — The Pioneer Community Hospital of Scott is officially open.
The hospital opened its doors at 8 a.m. on Monday morning, culminating a three-year effort by Scott County officials to save the hospital. Pioneer Health Services was a partner with Scott County for much of that effort.
"For the last three years, the number one goal of Scott County and of county administration has been to keep these doors open and get them re-opened," Scott County Mayor Jeff Tibbals said Monday. "Today, that goal is accomplished."
Through a deal approved by Scott County Commission in March, Pioneer Health Services now owns the hospital facility in Oneida. The county transferred ownership of the facility after the Tennessee Department of Health granted Pioneer its license to operate the facility. Mayor Tibbals and county attorney John Beaty completed the final paperwork to transfer ownership of the facility on Nov. 27. The agreement comes with a 10-year guarantee that the facility will be used as a hospital.
The 25-bed hospital opened with a 24-hour, 7-day-a-week emergency room, as well as diagnostic and lab services. The hospital also includes a surgical unit. In the months ahead, Pioneer will work to establish family medical clinics and recruit physicians and specialists, while expanding its services at the hospital.
As of Monday, when the hospital opened, there were 54 workers employed at the facility. Pioneer hopes to expand that number to 100 within the next 12 months as services are expanded.
"This is a great assurance for the people of Scott County," Mayor Tibbals said. "Lately we've been pushing retirement, and this helps with that. It also helps as a tool for industrial recruitment."
The hospital will be managed by CEO Tony Taylor, who brings a wealth of hospital operations experience from South Carolina, where he served as vice president of a 135-bed hospital before being hired by Pioneer.
In the weeks ahead, Pioneer will work with the state to obtain a critical access license, a designation commonly used for hospitals in rural communities. The critical access designation is used for hospitals with a maximum of 25 beds and 96-hour patient stays, with federal guidelines allowing the hospitals to recover cost-based reimbursement from Medicare in order to remain financially stable.
Mr. Taylor called Monday a "great day for Scott County."
County Commission chairman pro tem Paul Strunk, who chaired the hospital committee that played a chief role alongside Mayor Tibbals and Mr. Beaty in working through the long and tenuous process, echoed those comments, saying it was "a glorious day in Scott County — 555 days removed from one of the most devastating days in the county's history."
Scott County EMS Director Jim Reed said his ambulances immediately reduced their average run time from two hours and 48 minutes to 46 minutes when the hospital re-opened Monday morning. Since May 2012, when Florida-based Health Management Associates closed the hospital after its lease with Scott County expired, ambulances had been delivering patients to hospitals in Lafollette, Oak Ridge and Knoxville.
An informal ceremony in front of the hospital Monday morning was attended by a number of hospital employees and administrators, along with Mayor Tibbals, Mr. Strunk, and several other members of the County Commission, including: 6th District commissioner Ron Blevins, 5th District commissioner Harold Chambers, 1st District commissioner David "Blue" Day, 2nd District commissioners Sam Lyles and June Jeffers, 3rd District commissioners Kenny Morrow and Ernest Phillips, 6th District commissioner Hertis Phillips, 4th District commissioner Dennis Sexton and 7th District commissioner Mike Slaven.
Mr. Taylor credited a core group of hospital employees — many of whom are Scott County residents — with going above and beyond the call of duty to prepare the facility for its opening.
Scott County Mayor Jeff Tibbals looks on as Pioneer Community Hospital of Scott CEO Tony Taylor speaks at an informal ceremony Monday morning marking the official opening of the hospital.