The new Ennis Regional Medical Center officially opened this week and hospital staff are finishing the daunting task of moving the last of their equipment and offices, leaving the old facility vacant.

The process of moving may almost be over but decommissioning the old facility has not yet begun and is more detailed than just turning over the keys to the city, according to City Manager Steve Howerton.

“There is a protocol we have to go through before we can officially decommission the old facility which we don’t expect to have completed before the end of August,” he said.

The multi-faceted process begins when the hospital administration notifies the city that all of their files, equipment and supplies have been removed from the building. The city will then make an inspection of the facility to be sure that nothing has been left behind that belongs to the hospital or that could pose a health hazard.

“We need to be sure that there is nothing left behind that would be acceptable in a hospital setting but not when the building is empty, especially since there won’t be anyone in the building that would be equipped to handle a situation like that if it arose,” Howerton said.

The next step would be an assessment with ERMC administration to check for defects or areas that need to be repaired.

“We need to recognize which areas may need to be repaired or which parts need attention so that we can address the issues and make sure the building is in good working condition because we will be trying to market the facility in the near future,” Howerton said.

The last step is a final decommissioning inspection with officials from Lifepoint (the company that maintains the hospital in conjunction with the city) to make certain the building is in safe condition and there are no issues that need to be addressed before it is closed up. The lease the hospital has on the building will officially end when that final step is completed and the insurance policy that the hospital carries on the building will also end. The city also carries insurance on the facility and will continue to maintain the property and building to avoid any liability issues.

When the decommissioning process is complete, the appraisal process of the facility begins so the city can market the property.

“Before we try to market the facility we need to know what a fair value would be so that everyone is on the same page when it comes time to negotiate a sale. The city will most likely hire an agency that will handle the marketing and sale of the facility, which will be a priority for us,” Howerton said.

In keeping with their promise to the voters during the bond election, the city will aggressively try to market the facility for the next two years and at that time, if they have been unsuccessful at finding a buyer, the building could face demolition.

“We don’t anticipate having to demolish the building and it would be in our best interest to find a buyer for it so that we do not incur the cost of demolition and clean up. We also will be paying the utility bills for the facility when ERMC’s lease is up and will be making every effort to sell the facility rather than incurring that expense for a significant period of time,” he said,

The facility will be maintained until it is sold and while not at the same level of heating and air conditioning comfort that was needed while patients and staff were there it has to be kept up to insure that the building is in good condition for potential buyers. The cost for the last year’s electric and gas bill as well as routine maintenance was nearly $600,000, which the city is sure will decrease significantly when the building is empty.

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