Gulf Pines Hospital

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Employees and patients at Gulf Pines Hospital in Port St. Joe are facing an all too familiar dilemma; will the hospital be open the next time they show up?

Dr. Alfred Bonati attempted to buy the bankrupt hospital. Thursday, boxes filled the hallways and surgery rooms were empty of all equipment. According to the spokesman for the Bonati Institute, George Thorry, they were ordered to vacate the property by an attorney for the former owner, Hubert Steeley, although he does admit Bonati moved into the hospital even though the contract was not finalized.

"The former owner believes he has the right to terminate an agreement we've been working on for two months we were very close to closing."

The county stands behind the Bonati institute and is working to understand the legal standing held by former owner Hubert Steeley.

County Commissioner Billy Traylor says the needs protection.

"I'm not going to let one man that's run this hospital for years and years on the downside ruin Gulf County."

Bill Williams is on the health care committee for the county commission. Williams is concerned that Bonati's sudden departure will jeopardize health care in the community.

"You're looking at least, a 30-45 minute trek from here to Panama City and obviously someone's life could be threatened at that process."

But staff members still left at Gulf Pines assure the hospital will not close its doors. As of today, even the emergency room is still functioning and everyone with the Bonati Institute says even though they're moving out, it will only be temporary.

"We're certainly going to come back and find out whether these folks can do this. We're not going away."

But Bonati's financial support of the hospital and its staff are going away, at least for now.

Attempts made by Newschannel Seven to contact former owner, Hubert Steeley, were unsuccessful.