MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The Lauderdale Community Hospital’s emergency room is closed to patients as hospital administrators grapple with a cash flow problem and are unable to pay employees.
There are no doctors in the emergency room in the Lauderdale Community Hospital until further notice.
People in Ripley are concerned this could have deadly consequences. No doctors showed up for work Friday on their pay day because they didn't receive their paycheck.
"We've had some cash flow issues, and the doctors want to be paid before they come in and have some assurances,” said Michael Layfield, CEO of Lauderdale Community Hospital.
The hospital’s owners, Empower HMS, have had numerous problems recently.
A source told WMC Action News 5 Investigators in December that staffing levels were critically low and the supplies in the hospital were at a bare minimum.
A federal judge in January appointed a "Special Master" to oversee the hospital after the Empower HMS admitted to owing 350,000 in back taxes.
Layfield said some nurses will be on hand overnight in case anyone does come to the ER.
"These nurses to the scope of their practice ability will take care of the patient, call 911 and get them to another hospital,” Layfield said.
Besides a prepared statement, Layfield would not take any questions. Ripley residents like Cynthia Read, aren’t happy.
“I think it’s ridiculous,” Read said. “It’s not good at all for the town, because we depend on this hospital.”
She’s concerned for friends and family in the area. If there was a serious emergency, the nearest emergency room is 20 miles south in Covington.
“By the time the ambulance get here, somebody is going to die,” Read said. “And something needs to be done.”
Layfield said Empower is getting a large payment from Medicare next Tuesday and has promised to pay their ER doctors then.
"This will help pay a lot of our bills, make out payroll, get our ER doctors paid and get back on track,” Layfield said.
Empower HMS is due back in Federal Court in Memphis on the 21st. Future decisions on ownership and management of hospital could be made.
*Editor’s note: A previous version of this story included an incorrect headline that read “Lauderdale Community Hospital closed until further notice.” The hospital remains open but the emergency room is closed to patients.