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ETMC to terminate hospital lease - ETMC First Physicians clinic to continue operation

Franklin County officials have been notified by the East Texas Medical Center Regional Healthcare System of the system's intent to terminate its lease of ETMC Mount Vernon effective Jan. 1.

The ETMC First Physicians clinic in Mount Vernon will continue to operate with Dr. Jean Latortue and nurse practitioner Delisa Brooks providing care.

Poor utilization and declining reimbursement rates were cited as reasons for the decision. "The decision to terminate our lease of ETMC Mount Vernon was an extremely difficult one," said Perry Henderson, senior vice president, affiliate operations. "ETMC has leased this hospital for more than 25 years, so this decision is one we struggled with and did not make lightly. However, the reality of the situation is that due to changes in healthcare and low patient volumes at this facility, we can no longer afford to operate a hospital in this community."

Henderson noted that the emergency department saw on average eight patients a day and the hospital averaged only three or four inpatients a day. "With utilization numbers like these, you can't even cover the overhead associated with keeping a hospital open and providing quality care."

Declining reimbursements from payers such as Medicare and Medicaid contributed to unsustainable losses at the hospital and thus, the decision to close. For example, in 2013, Medicaid reimbursed most hospitals less than 50 percent of their Texas Health and Human Services Commission-audited allowed costs for inpatient care, according to the Texas Hospital Association.

"The leadership team at ETMC is saddened to have to make this decision," Henderson said. "However, healthcare is changing and we are working hard to make the changes needed to remain viable and continue our mission of care in East Texas," Henderson said. "We hope the community will understand our decision and continue to support Dr. Latortue and our clinic."

Approximately 40 team members will be affected by the closure. ETMC will provide assistance to these individuals as they seek employment, either with other ETMC facilities or elsewhere.