DeFUNIAK SPRINGS – Braden Health, a company with a proven track record of pulling rural hospitals out of the crisis and returning them to viability, approached the Healthmark Regional Medical Center to let administrators know they might consider upgrading. save them.
Healthmark Regional, just south of DeFuniak Springs, is clearly in danger. Her emergency room has been closed since March 18 with no reopening date in sight. His license to operate remains “under review” and CEO Lisa Holley hinted at financial hardship when she told the Walton County Commission that the hospital was “doing a lot of repairs that we didn’t choose to do, but we had to do without. budget “.
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The hospital administrators, however, were not available with details on the plight of the facility. And Kyle Kopec, Braden Health’s chief operations officer, said initial contact with Healthmark Regional managing partner Terri Jenkins turned out to be “a very strange conversation.”
“It’s gone from ‘it’s okay’ to ‘we won’t tell you any financial information’ to ‘everyone is trying to buy us,'” Kopec said.
What is Braden Health?
Braden Health was founded by Beau Braden in 2019. Braden was a medical practitioner whose successful struggle to establish a medical center in the small town of Immokalee, southwest Florida, led the state to overturn restrictive laws on ” certificate of necessity “to allow smaller health facilities to be established in rural areas.
However, the regulatory bureaucracy that Braden encountered while attempting to build the clinic that is now located in Ava Maria was enough to dissuade him from building more hospitals, so he dedicated himself to rescuing them instead.
The company began in western Tennessee, where several rural hospitals were found in distress. It has now purchased hospitals in five locations, including Henderson, Hendry, Haywood and Decatur counties.
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“We are committed to rural health care,” Kopec said.
One of the hospitals purchased, in the town of Brownsville, Haywood County, was abandoned in 2014 and Braden Health purchased the facility for $ 100. At the time of purchase, the roof of the building had collapsed and trees grew through the trees. floors.
Before joining the project, Braden Health agreed that it would invest at least $ 8 million and create a set number of jobs. If they did not meet those provisions, the repossession requirements would have forced them to give up the property, Kopec said.
“We basically took that thing down to the metal studs,” Kopec said. “We spent $ 10.4 million. The expected number of jobs was close to 80 and we ended up hiring 154. We started providing services on August 15.”
He said Braden Health has been successful in recruiting doctors and other key employees in rural locations where they run hospitals, putting people before profit.
“At the end of the day, the needs of the community will take priority over profit sharing and distribution,” he said. “Instead of big company bonuses, we put profits into new equipment and pay employees.”
By contacting Healthmark Regional
Kopec said he contacted Healthmark Regional and Jenkins on behalf of Braden Health after learning the hospital was in trouble. He has a family in Northwest Florida.
“It’s sad to see one of the hospitals in your yard getting into trouble,” he said.
He said he had gathered information about the hospital not only from news reports of the emergency room closure, but through contacts, including some at the Florida Agency for Health Administration.
His plan was to arrange a visit to the facility to get an idea if it could be one the company would like to acquire.
He said that when Jenkins objected to opening the hospital’s books, he offered to have Braden Health inspectors sign a nondisclosure agreement, which is standard procedure. At the end of a conversation in which he said he seemed “very confused”, Jenkins told him that he could have the lawyers at Braden Health contacted.
Kopec said he hadn’t heard anything “for several weeks”.
“It’s very obvious that they don’t have good hospital takeover management,” Kopec said.
Jenkins did not return a phone call seeking comment. Healthmark regional spokesperson Ron Kelley said he knew nothing about Braden Health.
Kopec said he has not closed the doors to Braden Health by working with Healthmark Regional.
“If he ever contacted us, I’d be happy to go over there and see what the facility is worth,” he said. “In the end, it should be worth it for us.”