No date known for hospital reopening

Repair costs, revenue loss covered by insurance
By Mary Ann Enloe | Jun 24, 2014
Photo by: Vicki Hyatt Canton Alderman Zeb Smathers poses a question as Medwest-Haywood CEO Janie Sinacore-Jaberg addressed the Haywood County Council on Government gathering in Maggie Valley Monday.

To those who are beginning to think the former Haywood County Hospital, now MedWest, just can't get a break, president and CEO Janie Sinacore Jaberg has a message.

She wants folks to know that Thursday night's switch room fire, although extremely serious, could have been much worse.

"No one was hurt and this community came together," she told local government officials and media representatives Monday night.
Jaberg took time out from several 24 -hour workdays to assure local leaders and the media that the damage is fixable.

"I apologize for not getting this word out sooner, but my mind has been on our patients, our staff and our community.  Communications have not been a priority. I hope you understand," she said at the Haywood County Council of Government's meeting Monday nigh, a quarterly meeting where county and municipal elected leaders and administrators share information and discuss issues.

A COG gathering was already scheduled for the Maggie Valley Town Hall, and Mayor Ron DeSimone welcomed western North Carolina media representatives to the hastily called hospital update which took up the first half of the government meeting.

Jaberg said, "I've been in crisis mode since about 6:30 Thursday evening, as some of you know who were attending the same Chamber of Commerce meeting I was when I got the call and you saw me quickly leave. I want to say again that the fire was directly related to an equipment failure and occurred in the second floor switch room.  There was no structural damage to any part of the hospital.  The decision to relocate patients was mine to make, and I made it.  No one was injured, and no one's care was jeopardized.  Most patients were transferred to WestCare in Sylva with others being sent to Mission in Asheville.  We are blessed to have these two great hospitals nearby and willing to help out."

Jaberg said she felt as if she was in a MASH unit.

"I reached out to Carolinas in Charlotte for MED1 and they quickly dispatched a mobile emergency department.  It's in place and equipped with everything an emergency room needs," Jaberg said.  "Maybe some of you have seen it, although we do ask that you not drive around up there unless you need to."

Jaberg was unable to answer the question that is on everyone's mind: when will things be back to normal at the hospital? Rumors abound, but Jaberg would not be backed into a corner.

"We're talking about this constantly," she said. "In fact, I have to leave this meeting to go directly back to hospital discussions."

To Canton Alderman Zeb Smathers' question about employees' jobs, Jaberg quickly said there will be no reduction in workforce.  Smathers also asked about insurance, and Jaberg's response was that insurance would take care of repairs and loss of revenue.

Jaberg emphasized that auxiliary services such as MedWest's Outpatient Care Center, Urgent Care Centers, the Homestead hospice facility and hospital-owned physician practices are staffed, open and serving the public, as is the Health & Fitness Center.

County Commissioner Kevin Ensley said after the meeting that the Haywood County Board of County Commissioners had authorized the county's maintenance director, Dale Burris, to go into the old health department over the weekend and get it ready for MedWest's office staff to move computers and staff in immediately. The building is for sale and has been empty for some time.

"Dale had to replace plumbing, electricity — everything that goes to pot when a building stands empty," Ensley said.

Jaberg was effusive in her thanks to the hundreds of folks who have stepped up to the plate in this crisis.

"This community has been wonderful in its response," she said.  "I've never seen so many fire trucks, EMS technicians and law enforcement officers in one place as I did Thursday night.  Ira (Dove, county manager) and county commissioners were instrumental in finding us office space immediately, and there was an outpouring of phone calls and messages of encouragement. Thursday night I made one phone call and as soon as I hung up, there were four doctors standing behind me ready to do whatever they could. I just can't thank people enough," she said.

Commissioner Mike Sorrells said after the meeting, "A lot of money is spent training people to respond to a crisis situation, and sometimes we wonder why. This is why."

Jaberg assured community leaders that Duke LifePoint Healthcare is "100 million percent" ready to go forward with the upcoming acquisition.  "This hasn't scared them at all," she said.

As she left the podium, Jaberg asked local leaders, "Please pray that we get through this quickly."

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