Gulf Pines Hospital Update

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The future of Gulf Pines Hospital is still in limbo as hospital administrators try to determine what funds are now available.

Last Friday the hospital administrator along with the nursing director and ER director all walked out. Monday, everyone still at the hospital is left wondering what will happen next.

The staff at Gulf Pines Hospital is getting too used to having administrators walk out on the facility. Monday, about 50 employees remain unsure what to expect each day. The owner, Hubert Steeley, says he's just trying to keep the doors open.

"This was all dropped on me at 2:00 Friday afternoon. Since then I've been trying to assess the damage and come up with a plan. What are the options for Gulf Pines Hospital? Right now I just don't know."

Steeley says he stepped aside late last year after months of legal battles concerning the financial situation for the hospital. He says he helped appoint a managing company that hired Liz Register to take over as hospital administrator.

But last Friday, she along with Dr. Michael White, the ER director, and Debra Morgan, the nursing director, walked out. He says several of their nursing staff have not been back to work either.

Tammie Butler, a nurse at the hospital, says those who stayed behind have seen similar circumstances before.

"I'm still here because this is our home and these patients are our family. The people I work with are our family and we love each other and we have plans to be here ‘till the end, even if we don't get paid."

Steeley is trying to figure out just that. He says he has been asked by Med Capital, the lending company, to turn over his stock. The hospital has a $700,000 loan with the company that holds the lien and stock, but he hasn't spoken to anyone personally at the company.

"Absent funding and a plan for funding; this hospital will close because we will not jeopardize patient care and until we have a plan for the continuation of funding, we don't have any choice."

Many are frustrated by the hospital's problems, but say a local hospital is important for the area's aging community.

Cora Sue Robinson is a patient at the hospital. She says she depends on them to stay open.

"Some people call it a band-aid hospital, but it's not. They can do anything here, even surgery."

Jean Evans, a resident on St. Joe Beach, says there are too many older adults in the area that need to be as close as possible to a hospital.

"Especially the ones in a nursing home, it's hard for them to go all the way to Panama City."

That might be the case if Gulf Pines has to close, once again, in the midst of financial woes.