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Fentress Agrees To Purchase Location For Stand-Alone ER

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
Fentress Agrees To Purchase Location For Stand-Alone ER

Fentress County Commissioners approved purchasing a building for a stand-alone UT Medical Center facility.

Commissioners agreed to purchase the old Fentress Health Systems building for $655,707. County Executive Jimmy Johnson said a long-term commitment was needed for UT Medical to lobby the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services for restriction changes.

“Passing this right here, these two amendments, I was told to tell y’all to pray and pray hard,” Johnson said. “Because what CMS decides to do is going to be the future of our medical service here in Fentress County and y’all have done a step to try to get there. To show them that we are very interested in doing this.”

County Attorney Leslie Ledbetter said in order for the emergency room to be a reality, the federal agency has to be successfully lobbied to change the 35-mile distance restriction for transferring hospitals.

Ledbetter said if successful, UT Medical would look to lease the building from Fentress County for 10 years, with additional renewals of 5-year terms. Some commissioners asked if leasing to purchase or other options were available in case the lobbying is unsuccessful.

“They’re not talking in short-terms,” Ledbetter said. “They’re talking in, ‘if we’re going to come in and invest in infrastructure, if we’re gonna staff this building, if we’re going to actually take your patients from Fentress County and do those transfers, we want longer term commitments from you all.’”

Ledbetter said there is no set path forward on how these agreements would typically work, because it would be a first.

“We’re the test case, we’re the first ones who’ve come to them,” Ledbetter said. “To say hey, please allow us to go around that 35, or take it out just remove that 35 mile distance rule for transferring hospitals.’ It’s just not feasible any longer.”

Johnson said the next step is getting a decision from CMS about whether the rule change will be allowed. Fentress County Commissioners will need to meet again to determine funding options to pay for the building.


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