Friday, December 13, 2002

Conner's nursing home just about out of money; could close soon

The Associated Press

CLINTON - Birchtree Healthcare nursing home will be out of money this weekend and could be closed if another operator is not found by Monday, its bankruptcy trustee says.

The trustee, attorney Harry Mathison of Henderson, said he has been negotiating with four nursing home companies that are interested in leasing or possibly buying the 116-bed nursing home.

"I would say that more than one of them have a keen interest and could make a decision by Monday," Mr. Mathison said. "There is a very real possibility someone will be willing to take it over."

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge David Stosberg barred Birchtree owner Tina Conner and manager Dan Dabney from the nursing home. Mr. Mathison said it is being run by the staff with oversight from a representative of the Cabinet for Health Services, which regulates nursing and health-care facilities.

Ms. Conner has alleged that Gov. Paul Patton ordered state health-care inspectors to target her nursing home last year after she broke off an affair with him. Mr. Patton has admitted the affair but denied abusing the powers of his office.

Birchtree filed for bankruptcy protection in September after state and federal officials cut off Medicare and Medicaid funding. After federal funding was halted, the number of residents dropped from 55 to fewer than 10.

A hearing is scheduled Monday before Judge Stosberg for an emergency status report on the nursing home. Mr. Mathison said the nursing home was able to stay open this week because of a $50,000 loan that Judge Stosberg approved.

"I hope to have a motion ready for the judge to sign on Monday that would allow a health-care professional to lease it," Mr. Mathison said.

He said there were 10 residents at Birchtree on Saturday, two of whom were to be moved this week. Even if an operator is found, the nursing home may temporarily close, he said.

"All of this is happening so fast that none of the potential operators has been in there to look things over," Mr. Mathison said.

The nursing home originally was named West Kentucky Manor. The state shut it down for health and safety violations in August 1994. The corporation filed for bankruptcy later that year. Ms. Conner and her husband at the time, Seth Conner, bought the facility in October 1995 and reopened it as Birchtree.

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