Decatur County General Hospital narrowly avoided closure last year and remains a threat to the overall finances of the local government. That's a negative finding from an audit conducted by the Tennessee Comptroller.
State auditors scolded Decatur County for not turning over financial documents related to the hospital. The most recent audit covered activity through mid-2018.
Mayor Mike Creasy acknowledges the finances are in rough shape, regardless of the missing paperwork. And the balance sheet is only getting worse. Since the audit was completed, Creasy says the county had to cover $200,000 in payroll costs at the facility for January, a repeat of last year.
State auditors point out that the hospital's deficits have already drained the county's bank accounts below the recommended threshold — 10 percent of annual expenditures. That means the county has less than a million dollars on hand.
Creasy says the only solution is to finalize a sale of the hospital, which has been in the works for more than a year.
"Decatur County is out of the hospital business, one way or the other," he says.
A private buyer with no experience failed to follow through with an agreement struck in early 2018, which would have netted $1 million for the county. The bidders also said they'd invest another million into the property.
Creasy says this new buyer, which he doesn't want to name publicly, shows more promise.
"We feel like this sale is positive. We think it's good for the community," he says. "I think we've got a strong company that's coming in."
Any sale will have to be approved by the Tennessee Attorney General because Decatur remains a nonprofit hospital. Because of that, state law requires that any proceeds will have to be put into a trust fund and used toward the health of the community.