Sevier County Quorum Court votes to use remaining American Rescue Plan funds for new hospital

Sevier County Medical Center, north of De Queen, Arkansas, is seen in this aerial photo. (Photo courtesy Sevier County Medical Center)
Sevier County Medical Center, north of De Queen, Arkansas, is seen in this aerial photo. (Photo courtesy Sevier County Medical Center)

DE QUEEN, Ark. --The Sevier County Quorum Court voted eight to one Monday to use remaining funds allocated to it through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 to cover expenses at the new hospital until a bank loan is secured.

The amount of remaining ARPA funds is just under $943,000.

Justice Roxie Stephens made a motion to vote on the issue, and Justice Walter Smith seconded it.

Justice Greg Wright voted no but said his vote was based on what he was hearing from constituents, not from lack of support for the hospital.

Prior to the vote, Sevier County Medical Center CEO Lori House gave a presentation on the issue.

House told the quorum court that the county-owned hospital needed the remaining ARPA funds to help cover the hospital's operating expenses and payroll until it is able to receive a line of credit from local banks.

Hospital officials had announced their intention to apply for a $4.5 million loan last month. They then learned through legal counsel that the process would take longer because state law required the hospital to host a public hearing and then allow for a 30-day public comment period.

"This has taken much longer than we expected," said House. "We also expected to have not spent some of the money set aside for the hospital's opening because of the additional time that COVID took to get the project finished and the great inflation that took place. We need this additional ARPA money to get us through from now until we can get this loan and start getting our reimbursements from Medicare and Medicaid."

House said the funds would go into general operations such as payroll and the electric bill.

"It would keep us going for about a month, which is what we need to secure this line of credit," she said.

The hospital has met the needed 30 inpatient stays, and Medicare will now be able to conduct a survey on the hospital and begin the process of approving the hospital for reimbursement.

House said the hospital could be eligible to receive reimbursement through Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in as soon as 90 days.

SCMC Board of Governors Chairman Steve Cole said he did not want to see anyone leaving the meeting "thinking the hospital is in dire straits."

"It's the life cycle of a new hospital and a hurdle we have to get over. We knew it was coming. There is a lot to this. A lot of moving parts," he said.

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