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Clinton County residents will meet about future of Bucktail Medical Center amid financial troubles

Bucktail Medical Center in Renovo, Pa.
Courtesy of Bucktail Medical Center
Bucktail Medical Center in Renovo, Pa.

As Bucktail Medical Center struggles to keep its doors open, hospital staff and community members will gather in North Bend Tuesday night to discuss the hospital’s future.

Bucktail CEO Tim Reeves said he hopes to conclude the meeting by asking community members a final question: Do they want the hospital to stay?

“If, in general, the consensus is, ‘We want the hospital to stay,’ we will do everything in our power to make that happen,” he said.

Reeves recently wrote a letter to elected officials and the community “sounding the alarm” on Bucktail’s financial difficulties and other issues.

The rural hospital previously declared bankruptcy in 2015, but if it doesn’t get rapid short-term funding, Reeves said it’s a matter of weeks before Bucktail would close.

The facility is a critical access hospital, a federal designation that aids certain rural health centers. And if it were to close, it would leave Clinton County without any traditional hospital and shutter one of the area’s largest employers.

After the recent downsizing of UPMC Lock Haven to an outpatient emergency department, the nearest hospital to residents of western Clinton County is 40 miles away in Jersey Shore.

In addition to traditional medical services, Bucktail is also a skilled nursing facility. It currently houses 21 residents, who would need to be relocated elsewhere if the facility were to close.

Contact with family, Reeves said, is vital for these nursing home residents.

“If they’re an hour further away, that presents new challenges for the families,” he said.

While some in the community harbor negative feelings toward the medical center, Reeves said there has been support and some donations since he authored his letter.

Reeves said he’s had “encouraging” conversations with state and local officials about short-term options, but to keep the doors open, he said Bucktail needs to increase patient volume.

In addition to basic financial needs like the hospital’s 85-person payroll, Reeves said he wants to update hospital equipment, including the acquisition of a CT scanner. He said he hopes that would begin to drive up patient numbers.

“We need to get to a point where we can at least break even,” he said. “If we can’t reach that break even point, either the facility doesn’t exist or there needs to be some continuous additional income from some source.”

The meeting will take place Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Chapman Township Fire Hall in North Bend.

James Engel