Federal Government Gives $121k in COVID Relief to a Hospital That's Been Closed Almost a Year


I know it must seem to be a quaint notion nowadays, what with the federal government spending trillions on COVID-19 relief with more likely to come, but we’re a country of limited resources.

Even with Washington hemorrhaging money like a dysfunctional airline, it’s not a good idea to waste taxpayer funds, no matter how much the outlay may be.

Now, $121,722 isn’t going to break the treasury by any metric. Heaven knows we’ve mortgaged generations to come in a quixotic attempt to stem the bleeding. It seems a little supererogatory to go on about money that couldn’t even buy a higher-end BMW these days.

And, after all, that $121,722 went to a hospital. How could you argue against that, particularly given the coronavirus pandemic?

Well, let’s start with the fact the hospital has been closed for nigh on a year.

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According to WVEC-TV, the Jamestown Regional Medical Center in Tennessee has gotten six figures worth of government money in the coronavirus giveaway.

This is funny because not only is the hospital not the best use of resources the Department of Health and Human Services could have come up with, the facility’s owner actually owes the government money — $1.2 million, to be exact.

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“On Monday, there were no cars in the parking lot, no lights on and no doctors inside the facility,” WVEC reported last week.

“Faded signs posted on the doors since June 13, 2019, warned no patients would not be treated until it reopened.”

Spoiler alert: It’s not reopening, not in the near future, anyway.

According to The Associated Press, when the medical center closed last year, in part because it stopped receiving Medicare and Medicaid payments for new patients, parent company Rennova said it hoped the center could reopen sometime in the future. The hospital also had supply issues.

None of that has changed in the interim. Meanwhile, the $121,722 wouldn’t even put too much of a dent into the $1.2 million the hospital owes in federal taxes.

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Hospitals also don’t reopen on a dime, literally or metaphorically, particularly given the amount of money that would be needed to get a medical center up to code and able to deal with COVID-19 patients. And while $121,722 isn’t a dime, it’s also barely enough to renovate the coffee room.

“It’s not fair for them to direct money to a hospital that has currently no real ability to reopen and provide adequate and safe patient care,” former Jamestown nurse Miah Elmore told WVEC.

“It’s disgusting in a way,” former Jamestown nurse Karen Cooper told the station.

“There are hospitals and things that are seeing the COVID patients that could’ve utilized that money.”

Oh, yes, and speaking of Karen Cooper, that brings up another Jamestown Medical Center problem. Cooper is part of a class-action lawsuit that accuses Rennova of not paying the federal government the Social Security or payroll taxes it withheld from paychecks.

For all I know, this is another frivolous lawsuit from disgruntled employees looking for a quick settlement. I’m no mind-reader.

Here’s a question, though: Why would you give a cool six figures to a closed hospital that owes seven figures in back taxes and is currently involved in a lawsuit that claims it didn’t bother turning payroll tax and Social Security withholding money over to the government?

Oh, and get this: Rennova also took more of your money in the form of a $2.3 million Paycheck Protection Program loan, according to WVEC. Not that the company is sure it will be able to meet the strictures of the program, mind you — one of which is not laying off employees.

“While the Company currently believes that its use of the loan proceeds will meet the conditions for forgiveness of the loans, we cannot assure you that we will not take actions that could cause the Company to be ineligible for forgiveness of the loans, in whole or in part,” the company wrote in a financial filing, WVEC reported.

Just in case you think this couldn’t get any better, Rennova’s required quarterly Securities and Exchange Commission report will be filed late, which is apparently a not infrequent occurrence for Rennova, according to WVEC’s report. The company did say it had gotten $7.4 million from the federal government through its coronavirus relief funding, according to WVEC, which should go a long way to paying off the $4.4 million in tax liens it owes on two other hospitals.

Plenty of money has been wasted by the federal government in the various phases of the coronavirus relief packages. Even as a conservative, I’m unusually lenient when it comes to this; these packages were put together in mere weeks and were designed to keep entire sectors of our economy from collapsing. Mistakes are going to happen.

There are moments where one draws the line, however, and that line definitely gets drawn at Rennova. Not only is the company in profoundly troubled financial straits, it’s accepting money for a hospital that hasn’t been open since 2019 and which, from all appearances, will not be reopening anytime soon.

This isn’t something a local TV station needed to tell the government, although kudos to WVEC-TV. This is something anyone interested could have learned from Google. I understand we just spent trillions of dollars we’re never going to get back. This is $121,722 we could have very easily saved — especially since it went to a closed hospital.

At the very least, there are lawmakers demanding the money back.

“I was shocked to read a media report that Jamestown Hospital received $121,000 in COVID relief funding when, in fact, the hospital has been closed for nearly one year,” GOP Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn wrote in a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services’ inspector general on Wednesday, according to WVEC.

“It is inconceivable to me that a closed hospital would properly qualify for such funds,” GOP Tennessee Rep. John Rose said in a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar Tuesday, WVEC reported.

Neither letter has, as of Sunday morning, shamed Rennova into giving back the money. In fact, the company maintains the money is going toward reopening the facility.

“We can confirm that Jamestown TN Medical Center, Inc. has received assistance from the Department of Health and Human Services Provider Relief Fund as indicated and publicly disclosed,” Rennova CEO Seamus Lagan wrote in a letter to WVLT-TV published Thursday.

“We are unsure on the metrics used to calculate the amount received but we believe and endeavor to ensure the money has been used in accordance with the guidelines and terms of such relief,” Lagan said.

Or, you know, it could have been used on a hospital with an operational emergency room that could have taken patients immediately. This is good money thrown after bad. Like government checks going to the dead, this is taxpayer funding given to a company that’s not in the best of financial health in its own right.

There’s only one acceptable resolution to this travesty: Rennova needs to give the money back posthaste.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture