The Fentress County Commission has given the county executive permission to move forward in finding a location for a stand-alone University of Tennessee emergency room.
County Executive Jimmy Johnson met with UT Medical Center officials Monday for more than 90 minutes. County Attorney Leslie Ledbetter said the University wants the county to pursue a long-term lease or the purchase of a building.
“They’re going to staff it,” Ledbetter said. “They’re going to provide all the equipment and supplies for the interior of the building, things that need to be done inside. We just have the obligation, and that’s what y’all have committed to before is trying to help them find a place to put that.”
Once a location is secured, officials must ask Medicare and Medicaid for a change in its policy. Currently, a stand alone emergency room can not be established more than 30 miles from the transferring facility. Jamestown sits 90 miles from UT Medical Center.
“I think we are a good test case for changing that,” Ledbetter said. “Because the world is much different than it was in the 70’s when this was enacted. You had small hospitals that had bigger hospitals close by. We are just not there today.”
Ledbetter said UT officials are willing to work on the policy change if the county commits to a long-term plan for the facility of at least ten years. Ledbetter said about four days ago The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services came to the county asking about viable locations.
Johnson said bids will be placed in the paper on March 3rd to speed the process.
“By law, we are under the 1981 Act,” Ledbetter said. “So, anytime we accrue a liability like that either a debt for a purchase, or you set aside money for a lease, because that’s what you’ll have to do. If you are going to lease something, you have to put a block of money to say we got it to pay for it, you have to go through the bid process.”