Tennessee Hospital Got More Than $120,000 in Coronavirus Relief—But It's Closed

A hospital in Tennessee received more than $120,000 in coronavirus relief—but it has been closed for almost a year.

The Jamestown Regional Medical Center (JRMC) got $121,722 from the Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) Provider Relief Fund under the CARES Act, the department said.

The funding is intended to provide support to hospitals and health care providers on the front lines of the coronavirus response.

On its website, HHS said the relief money "supports healthcare-related expenses or lost revenue attributable to COVID-19 and ensures Americans can get testing and treatment for COVID-19." But according to WBIR, the Jamestown hospital has been closed since June 2019.

Miah Elmore, a former nurse at the Jamestown hospital, told the station that it was "not fair" for the hospital to receive the funds as it is not providing care to patients.

COVID testing
A testing kit carried by a medical professional after administering a test for coronavirus on April 18, 2020 in Springfield, Tennessee. Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Another former nurse, Karen Cooper, added: "It's disgusting in a way. There are hospitals and things that are seeing the COVID patients that could've utilized the money."

According to WBIR, Cooper is part of a class action lawsuit against Florida-based health care provider Rennova which alleges that taxes that the company took out of employee paychecks never made it to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Cooper added that the coronavirus funds provided to the Jamestown hospital is "another slap in the face" because when the 85-bed facility was closed, it left Fentress County without a hospital.

Rennova Health—which owns the hospital—owes $1.2 million in federal taxes on the hospital, the WBIR reported. Rennova also owes more than $4.4 million to the IRS at the other two hospitals it runs in Tennessee—the Big South Fork Medical Center in Oneida and the Jellico Community Hospital in Jellico.

Despite the unpaid taxes, Rennova disclosed in financial filings last week that the federal government had provided its facilities with around $7.4 million in coronavirus relief funds. Rennova Health has been contacted for comment.

An HHS spokesperson told Newsweek that the department had used Medicare Fee-for-Service payment information as the basis for making these distributions, which allowed initial payments to be made to providers "as quickly as possible without requiring an individualized application process."

But the spokesperson added that HHS will take action to secure repayment once it confirms a hospital or health care provider is closed.

"The funds went to providers across the entire country—to those in areas heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and to those who are struggling to keep their doors open as healthy patients delay care and cancel elective services," the spokesperson said.

"We will continue to review the data and information to ensure accurate and appropriate payment. Once HHS confirms that a provider has closed, we will initiate an action to force repayment without having to go through the audit process. Many of the providers that are not operating have already returned the funds and if an institution is closed and their bank account is also closed, the funds are automatically returned."

The JRMC closed on June 13, 2019 after it stopped receiving Medicare and Medicaid payments for new patients, according to reports last year. The hospital's CEO Michael Alexander said at the time that the loss of funding had led to the closure and said he hoped the hospital would be able to reopen, according to the Associated Press.

After it closed, paramedics have had to start taking patients to the next closest hospital in Crossville, which is around 45 minutes away.

Tennessee has more than 18,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and 301 deaths, according to the latest figures from the state's health department. Fentress County has six cases and no deaths.

This infographic, provided by Statista, shows the U.S. states with the most COVID-19 cases as of May 19.

A chart showing the ten states across the U.S. with the most coronavirus cases.
A chart showing the 10 states across the U.S. with the most COVID-19 cases. STATISTA