Franklin County Hospital

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Franklin County commissioners have called an emergency meeting for Thursday to decide what to do about the area's only hospital.

Apparently the George E. Weems Memorial Hospital is in danger of closing.

George E. Weems Memorial Hospital's 29 beds and emergency room provide the closest healthcare for the folks in Franklin County.

Noah Lockley, Jr., County Commissioner District 3, says, "It means a lot. We got to have a hospital. We will have one and our main concern is keeping it open."

But for how long? The company that runs the hospital, Dassee Community Health Systems, reportedly owes Franklin County $150,000 in back-lease payments.

Its affiliate company, Ashford Health Care Systems, filed for bankruptcy last month. That's painting a cloudy picture for the future of the hospital.

Mark Corenton, Assistant County Planner, says, "There had been late payments on taxes on the rent for the hospital and the county commission was concerned that they were not meeting their obligation on their lease."

At last Tuesday's Franklin County Commission meeting, hospital officials confirmed everyone's worst fears.

"That's when they told the county that they would no longer be able to run the hospital."

George E. Weems Memorial Hospital is the only hospital between Tallahassee and Panama City. County officials say they are aware of this and plan to explore every resource available to avoid a shutdown.

"We're isolated down here between Tallahassee and Panama. Like 60 miles to Panama and maybe eight miles from Tallahassee. We're the only hospital between those two points, so it's essential that we keep it."

County officials have now scheduled a special meeting Thursday morning to discuss turning the hospital over to another management company. Hospital officials were contacted for this story, but declined to comment.

The same management company operates the Calhoun Liberty Hospital in Blountstown. They only recently caught up on the payroll for the hospital staff some overdue utility bills.