Leaders of Mississippi acute care center say they were ‘blindsided’ by eviction notice, leaving healthcare crisis for community

Published 4:57 pm Friday, May 19, 2023

Leaders of a Mississippi long-term acute care hospital said they were “blindsided” by eviction, leaving a healthcare crisis and uncertain future for residents.

The CEO of KPC Promise Hospital Vicksburg said Promise had an arrangement to pay off the $898,501 in back rent due Merit Health, adding company officials were “shocked, dismayed and blindsided” by Merit Health’s action.

Merit Health announced Tuesday it was terminating its lease with Promise for failing to pay rent on the sixth-floor facility it has at Merit Health River Region on U.S. 61 North.

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Company officials said the lease termination would result in either closing or relocating Promise from the Merit Health River Region campus. They added they would help patients who require long-term acute care services to relocate to other facilities.

“Without warning, Merit Health River Region recently informed KPC Promise Hospital of Vicksburg of its intent to evict our long-term acute care facility from its premises,” said Kerry D. Goff, CEO of KPC Promise Hospital Vicksburg.

Promise Hospital is a long-term acute care hospital specializing in caring for patients that need longer care than a short-term acute care hospital offers. Promise has a staff that includes an attending physician, nurses, respiratory therapists, wound care specialists, occupational therapists, speech pathologists, physical therapists and a pharmacist and dietician.

According to its website, Boca Raton, Fla.-based KPC Promise Hospital operates a total of 10 facilities, either hospitals or skilled nursing facilities, in six states.

Promise employs 60 people at its facility in Merit Health River Region.

In a written statement Goff said Merit Health previously agreed to a payment schedule for past rent, which included the receipt of a $269,694 payment in April and a scheduled payment of $257,000 for May.

According to a source familiar with the situation, Merit had checks in hand for $410,793 and had already cleared $256,591 of that total. KPC Promise was complying and making payments, according to the source.

“Given the agreement that was in place and recent payments that had been made in good faith, this action appears to be nothing more than a profit-motivated money grab at the expense of important healthcare services our community depends on,” Goff said. “At this time, we are considering all legal options and will do everything possible to save the hospital and preserve access to care.”

Mayor George Flaggs Jr. declined to comment on the lease issue because it involved two private businesses, but added, “I’ve been told the patients will be cared for.”

“Anytime there’s a hardship on residents in our community I would hope we could bridge a path to a solution but this is really a matter between two private entities,” Warren County Board of Supervisors President Kelle Barfield.

Gubernatorial candidate Brandon Presley blamed the problem on Gov. Tate Reeves’ refusal to expand Medicaid in Mississippi.

“This healthcare crisis lies squarely at the feet of Tate Reeves, who has blocked Medicaid expansion, which has left hospitals across Mississippi scrambling to keep their lights on and 220,000 Mississippians without life-saving healthcare,” Presley said, adding that he would expand Medicaid to help facilities like Promise remain open.

Promise in 2018 moved to the main Merit Health campus on U.S. 61 North after spending 15 years at Merit Health’s west campus on North Frontage Road.

A company spokesman said at the time the biggest reason for relocating was to better serve the hospital’s patients and make it easier for any of its patients staying at the hospital to transition to the sixth floor instead of another campus.