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Top Stories of 2013 #2: Bridgeport hospital saga continues

By Messenger Staff | Published Saturday, December 28, 2013

The sale of the Bridgeport hospital to Wise Regional Health System concluded in 2013, but the story began years earlier.

And at year’s end, it was still unfolding.

North Texas Community Hospital opened in August of 2008 in Bridgeport, a state-of-the-art facility licensed for 35 beds. By May 2009, it was already in default on bonded debt of $59.1 million.

After years of financial struggles but high praise from patients, the hospital declared bankruptcy in November 2012 – having already secured an agreement with Wise Regional that they would enter a “stalking-horse” bid of $20 million to purchase it.

When the bidding ended in late January 2013, Wise Regional was the only bidder.

On Feb. 4, WRHS was awarded the bid. The hospital remained open until the new owner took over March 27, and the emergency department never closed throughout the transition and renovations. It reopened May 7 as Wise Regional Bridgeport.

Almost all of the hospital’s 200 employees were offered jobs at either Decatur or Bridgeport.

However, as the year progressed, patient volume at Bridgeport did not meet expectations, and the campus lost an average of $350,000 a month. In November, the Wise Regional board voted to suspend inpatient services on Dec. 1.

At year’s end, the Bridgeport facility was handling emergency and outpatient procedures only, although it continued to maintain its license as a full-service facility in hopes that the cutback would be temporary.

Meanwhile, one of the biggest changes occurred behind the scenes: Wise Regional granted obstetric privileges July 29 to family practice physicians who met certain criteria in experience and training.

A significant portion of the Bridgeport hospital’s patient volume had come from deliveries performed by those doctors, who intially were not credentialed to deliver babies at Wise Regional in Decatur. The change opened the door for those doctors to bring their patients to Decatur – and eliminated a major bone of contention that had arisen between the two facilities over the years.

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