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County bails out St. Vincent Health after calling its leadership an 'abject failure'

St. Vincent Health said it would not have been able to make payroll Friday without outside funds.

LEADVILLE, Colo. — The Lake County Board of Commissioners begrudgingly approved bailing out the county’s only hospital with nearly a half a million dollars of taxpayer money Thursday night.

St. Vincent Health in Leadville told its nearly 100 employees it would not be able to make payroll Friday without additional outside cash. The state Department of Health Care Policy and Financing said it already advanced the hospital $178,000 earlier this week, for a total of more than $1 million advanced so far.

RELATED: Leadville hospital says it doesn't have money to pay employees this week

“This is an outrageous and shocking dereliction of duty,” the county board told the hospital leadership in an official resolution, describing them as an “abject failure.”

Nevertheless, the three-person county commission voted to send $437,000 to the hospital’s managing board – provided it meet certain conditions.

Those conditions include mandating hospital leaders to make a public apology to both employees and taxpayers, create a 90-day financial plan, post monthly “understandable” financial situation updates, evaluate whether the former CEO and CFO broke any laws, consider cutting or removing salaries of senior leadership, to endeavor to repay the money and to never again ask the county for funds.

The hospital board declined to comment on whether it would accept those terms at its own meeting Thursday night and said it had not had a chance to review the document with its legal counsel. The chair of the hospital board said at least one member indicated she would not agree to the terms.

However, the hospital board said it would be able to make payroll Friday because of additional funding and support “from multiple sources.”

“St. Vincent Health remains committed to our patients, our staff and our community,” Chief Operating Officer Kathryn Fry said in an emailed statement. “This funding provides us an opportunity to continue caring for our patients while we work on sustainable solutions to our current financial situation.”

Fry declined to answer further questions, including whether patient care was impacted because of lack of funding.

Several current and former employees told 9NEWS the financial problems began months before this week’s urgent warning of a “financial threat” at the hospital.

“None of my vendors were being paid,” said former hospital IT worker John Mora. “I figured it was just a matter of time before my checks stopped coming as well.”

Mora, a lifelong Leadvillian, said he took a job outside the hospital in September. In his tenure, he said he witnessed cable and internet services turned off to the hospital multiple times because the facility did not pay its bills.

“At that point, what else is not being paid?” he asked.

Mora said he’s relied on St. Vincent Health for his family’s health; that was his first stop when a close family member had a heart attack last month. “We have to have something for when things go wrong,” he said.

Now he worries what the future of the hospital means for his family next time they need help. The next nearest hospital is at least 40 minutes away.

Mora also said he worries what it means for his hometown if the hospital’s financial troubles continue. 

“Honest to God, who is going to want to move to a town that doesn’t have health care?” he asked. 

But Mora said he doesn't have confidence in the long term fiscal stability of the facility. 

“Quite frankly, I’d be surprised if they made it to the end of the year," he said.


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