, 2022-09-22 07:03:00,
The news, under Noble Health letterhead, arrived at 5:05 p.m. on a Friday, with the subject line: “Urgent Notice.” Audrain Community Hospital, Paul Huemann’s workplace of 32 years, was letting workers go.
Word travels fast in a small town. Huemann’s wife, Kym, first heard the bad news in the car when a friend who’d gotten the letter, too, texted.
“Your termination was not foreseeable,” said the letter, dated Sept. 8 and signed Platinum Health Systems, adding that the firing was permanent “with no recourse” and that the “medical facility will be shuttered.”
“I don’t know what my next steps are,” said 52-year-old Huemann, who supervised the laboratory at the Audrain hospital.
The future for the Huemanns, hundreds of other workers and thousands of patients in two small Missouri towns began to unravel long before that afternoon. The drama playing out in Paul Huemann’s hometown is familiar to many who live in rural America: Communities are so desperate to keep their hospital open that they’re willing to gamble on any buyer, including those backed by private equity.
Sometimes they lose.
Noble Health, a three-year-old private equity-backed startup, had acquired Audrain and nearby Callaway Community Hospital during the pandemic. In March, it suspended all hospital services and later furloughed 181 employees, state records show.
Noble — facing staggering debt, more than a dozen lawsuits, and at least two federal investigations — struck a deal to sell the hospitals in April to Platinum Neighbors, which is affiliated with Texas-based Platinum Team Management and Platinum Health Systems. In late June, Platinum asked Missouri officials to extend until Sept. 21 a deadline to reopen the hospitals.
On Tuesday, Platinum officials told KHN that, “on behalf of Noble,” they asked Missouri regulators for an additional 30-day extension “in an attempt to explore all alternatives for reopening these facilities,” Ryann Gordon, Platinum’s director of marketing, said. “The backpay and health benefits of the employees is of utmost importance.”
Hours before the licensing deadline…
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