There may be a hospital open in Cherokee Village before Christmas.
Frank Schupp, a businessman from Santa Rosa Beach, Fla., is negotiating to purchase the former Eastern Ozarks Regional Health System from current owner Robert Becht.
"I just think a hospital is greatly needed in the area, and up until 2003 that hospital was doing pretty good," said Schupp.
Schupp said he thinks he will have enough financing to buy the hospital within the next two weeks. He said after the hospital is purchased it will take several weeks to clear all the legal hurdles.
"If we can make the deal, our hope is to have the hospital open by mid-December," Schupp said.
Schupp would not say what the purchase price for the hospital is.
At the beginning of the year the Arkansas Department of Health told Becht the hospital's license would expire by the end of the year if a buyer could not be found.
Schupp said he met with the Department of Health last week and it is willing to extend the licensure if he needs more time to complete the purchase.
Eastern Ozarks' current licensure was grandfathered in by the Department of Health, allowing them to operate without making changes to accommodate new hospital codes.
Those codes cover everything from the length of patients beds to the size of the ambulance dock.
If the licensure expires, the Cherokee Village hospital would be forced to comply with current state hospital codes. A new hospital would likely have to be built if the old licensure were to run out, according to multiple sources.
Terry Cruse, the former administrator at Eastern Ozarks, said John Cheek's bid to buy the hospital is dead. She said he was unable to acquire the financing for the project.
Cheek, the owner of International Health Systems, did not return repeated phone calls from the Villager Journal.
This isn't the first time Schupp has been a part of an effort to buy the hospital in Cherokee Village.
Shortly after Eastern Ozarks Regional Health System closed Dec. 1, 2004, Amerris Health Systems, a Tennessee-based healthcare provider, attempted to buy the hospital from Becht. Schupp was Amerris' chief negotiator.
Schupp said he still serves as a consultant for Amerris Health Systems. Besides serving as a consultant, Schupp said, he owns outpatient businesses in Louisiana and Florida.
He said he has been in the rural healthcare field for 25 years.
"I've owned a hospital in the past and actually have a master's degree in rural hospital administration from the University of Tennessee," Schupp said.
Schupp said his interest in the Cherokee Village hospital was piqued after receiving a phone call in August from Ken Pounders, the head of maintenance at the hospital.
"He told me what was going on with the sale of the hospital, and I decided to step in and see what I could do," Schupp said.
If he is able to reopen the hospital in Cherokee Village, Schupp said he plans to re-hire all of its former employees. Besides serving as the owner/operator, he said he will also serve as the hospital's administrator on a temporary basis.
Schupp said Cruse will be offered a position, but he is unsure what exactly that position will be.
After the hospital is purchased, Schupp said he will focus his attention on physician recruitment to the area. He said he hopes he will be able to foster a working relationship with physicians who are already in the area.
One local physician, Dr. George Jackson, was instrumental in bringing Schupp to the area.
"Dr. Jackson is a wonderful asset to your area," Schupp said. "He has made some serious efforts to get a hospital back in the area."
Eastern Ozarks was closed after being cited by the Department of Health for multiple hospital code violations. The Department of Health mandated that Becht could no longer own the hospital and ordered him to sell it this year.