Former Pauls Valley hospital employees confront city manager over closure

PAULS VALLEY, Okla. - Pauls Valley City Manager James Frizell went to Pauls Valley General Hospital on Monday morning to try and answer angry questions from employees who found out Friday evening they no longer had jobs.

The hospital authority, which is made up of the city council members, voted late Friday to close the hospital’s doors, saying there is no money left to keep it open.

“We couldn’t pay bills. We couldn’t meet the demands any more. That’s where we’re at,” Frizell told the employees gathered in a conference room. “There’s no money to pay. I mean there is no money."

“Did you get a paycheck?” shouted someone in the crowd. “Because, if you got a paycheck, we should all get a paycheck, also.”

Employees taxes have not paid, and their insurance premiums have not been paid for months either, even though the money has been deducted from recent paychecks.

“I don’t have PTOs. I don’t have freaking insurance that I paid for, and I don’t have my short-term disability. You gonna tell me what I’m supposed to do?” asked another employee.

“Ma’am, I don’t have an answer for that,” Frizell responded.

In July, Alliance Health stepped in to try and save the hospital but they said part of the problem is the hospital’s accounts receivable money can’t be touched. It’s tied up in litigation with the previous management company.

The CEO is calling on the attorney general to investigate.

“Until the state of Oklahoma steps up and starts licensing management companies like mine, it’s going to continue,” said CEO of Alliance Health Frank Avignone.

Avignone also said he’s hearing reports of a death that could be partially attributed to the abrupt closure of the hospital.

"My understanding was there was an elderly person here in town that may have suffered some sort of cardiac event, be it a heart attack, what have you. They were not able to raze EMS, and they had to go to Purcell and, by the time they did get to Purcell hospital, the patient had unfortunately expired,” he said.

And, Avignone said that trend will likely continue. But, for now, he’s also worried about his former employees.

"We have employees who can't pay their electric bill, can't pay their car payment, can't feed their children,” he said.

“It’s been very, very stressful for me and my family,” said Melody Williams, who was employed as a nurse at Pauls Valley General Hospital.

Williams was recently diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. Ten days before her double mastectomy a couple weeks ago, she discovered she had no insurance because the premiums had not been paid.

“I’m not in any physical shape to go to work. So, I don’t know what I’m supposed to do,” she said.

Several employees talked about filing a class action lawsuit. They plan to show up next week at the hospital authority’s meeting.