WILLIAMSON - Williamson Memorial Hospital representatives are silent on a deal that would see the hospital sold to a New Jersey-based company.
The deadline to accept the deal expires today, but officials have not indicated whether the transaction will go forward.
In March, it was announced the hospital had been purchased by Collaborative Healthcare Solutions, a company based in Red Bank, New Jersey. The company also has offices in Staten Island, New York.
In a news release, the hospital said it expected the transition of its assets to the new company be completed by "the second quarter of this year," meaning by the end of September.
However by year's end, the deal has not been accepted and the transition has not begun.
The Williamson Daily News has asked hospital representatives repeatedly about details of the transaction and who is serving on the governing board.
Williamson Mayor Charlie Hatfield serves as chairman of the board, but declined to make comment on the deal until "after midnight on Dec. 31."
"Hopefully this will work out best for the community and the 170 plus jobs up there," Hatfield said, referring to the future of the hospital's staff.
Hatfield also refused to name who else serve on the governing board with him.
"If this was my company I could divulge everything, but I am in a different posture right now," he said. "I don't want to speak out of turn."
In May, Hospital Management Associates, which owns 96 percent of the hospital, made notice that it was "financially distressed" and selling off its assets to Collaborative Healthcare Solutions.
Sonia D. Chambers, chairwoman of Hospital Management Associates, sent notice to the West Virginia Healthcare Authority that the hospital experienced insolvency and "the inability to pay its debts as they come due."
Hospital Management Associates made notice it was selling the hospital to Collaborative Healthcare Solutions for $1.4 million.
Collaborative Healthcare Solutions had been granted a business license from the West Virginia Secretary of State's office that March. It listed Vincent Brown as a principal member. Multiple calls and emails to Brown were not returned.
The company formed a board to oversee the transaction, headed by Mayor Hatfield.
It was learned the board met several times with Chuck Fulner, a lead investor in Collaborative Healthcare Solutions, according to sources with knowledge of the discussions who were not authorized to speak publicly.
The board had questions about Fulner's terms and intentions, the sources said.
Fulner, a former gourmet hot dog entrepreneur from Kentucky, has a rocky track record in hospital management.
In 2010, Fulner was linked to the purchase of a Mufreesboro, Arkansas, hospital that reportedly never opened, according to a report from Insider Louisville. He then formed a group to purchase a Cleveland, Ohio hospital in 2013 that was later resold amid allegations nurses were not being paid on time, the Houston Chronicle reported.
Fulner was arrested in March of that year on a charge of misdemeanor assault. Fulner shoved the hospital's chief nursing officer during a discussion of Fulner's management practices, according to a police report filed by the Cleveland Police Department. Fulner shoved the nurse's head into a table and then the nurse went into a seizure, according to the report.
He later stepped down from his role in the hospital. It was unclear by press time if the assault charge had been resolved, and a message left for Fulner was not returned. A representative of the Cleveland Municipal Court said she could not divulge the outcome of the case without first filing a Freedom of Information Act request.
The Williamson Daily News has repeatedly asked for the names of who is serving on the hospital's governing board.
Representatives at the hospital said only spokeswoman Cindy Segar-Miller can answer that question. After a reporter left a message with Segar-Miller asking for a return call, but she replied with an email instead.
"No additional information is available at this time," she wrote. "Thank you."
Subsequent emails asking who serves on the hospital's board were not answered. Multiple phone calls to her voicemail were also not returned.
The hospital is required to maintain a governing framework as part of its compliance with the Joint Commission, an organization that accredits hospitals.
The Joint Commission requires "governing body compliance and enforcement of the bylaws, rules, and regulations, and policies," according to a guide the organization gives to hospitals. The hospital received reaccreditation in March 2015. The Joint Commission has not visited since January 2016, according to the hospital's accreditation history.
Travis Crum is a reporter for the Williamson Daily News. He may be reached by phone at 304-236-6497.