Crittenden Regional Hospital to close, employees feel blind-sided

WATCH: Officials comment on Crittenden Regional Hospital closure
(Source: WMC Action News 5)
(Source: WMC Action News 5)

(WMC) - Crittenden Regional Hospital in West Memphis, Ark. will close its doors permanently.

Employees tell WMC Action News 5 they were called into an emergency meeting Monday morning where they learned that the hospital will close.

The hospital reopened in July, nearly one month after fire broke out in the intensive care unit. The fire forced the evacuation of 14 patients.

Before that fire started, the hospital was having financial problems, but residents voted to pay more in sales tax to help fund it. Now, the extra sales tax will not be collected.

Despite that measure, the hospital's CEO says the hospital could not recovery financially from the fire.

Labor and delivery nurse Christiana Shields is floored that Crittenden Regional is closing.

"I'm sad and just disappointed and shocked really," said Shields, whose husband is an EMT. Both will be out of work. The couple has five children.

"I will have no job in two weeks, and from what I hear, I don't know if it's a rumor, but they're saying if the supplies run out, it could be sooner," Shields said. "I have kids that need insurance. Will our prior bills get paid? Our life insurance?"

Shields went to the hospital Monday to get answers from Human Resources.

The news wasn't good.

Employees were told health insurance bills since January will not be paid and the hospital has no money for paid time off.

"Then it's like 400 people all scrambling for a job at the same time. It's going to be competitive," she added.

Employees say the hardest part is that they feel blind-sided.

"We passed the sales tax. We had the fire, we overcame that. There was no indication. As far as I knew, we were okay," said Shields.

Hospital CEO Gene Cashman was visibly upset and called the closure "heartbreaking."

"Our hearts are with them. They're a resilient group of people who have poured their lives into taking care of people here," Cashman said.

He went on to say they will do all they can to help all 400 employees. The hospital is planning a job fair Wednesday.

The Emergency Room is in treat and transfer mode, as Crittenden Regional Hospital works to find hospitals to take in current patients.

Cashman says the four closest cities to West Memphis that contain hospitals are Osceola, Forest City, Blytheville, and Memphis. Click on each city to find out where the hospitals are located.

Get the latest from WMC Action News 5 anytime:   iPhone |   iPad | Android  |  SMS Alerts |  Email Alerts |  Facebook  |  Twitter |   Instagram  

Copyright 2014 WMC Action News 5. All rights reserved.