Union hospital finds safety under new ownership

Union County’s Wallace Thomson Hospital has a new name and is under new ownership after bankruptcy proceedings left the hospital's future uncertain.

Wallace Thomson Hospital is now Union Medical Center, a division of Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System.

“Affiliation with Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System will allow continued healthcare services to be delivered in Union County,” said Mark Aycock, chief operating officer with Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System.

“The many benefits of belonging to a large health system include coordinated care for medical services, access to multi-specialty physician groups, increased efficiencies and access to the most advanced technologies.”

In 2004, Union Hospital District — the former owner of Union Medical Center when it was still Wallace Thomson Hospital — filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection. In addition to its mounting debt and multiple creditors, the hospital group was “part of civil actions related to the collection of outstanding trade debt” in the amount of $5.6 million, according to court documents.

“We went through a Chapter 9 bankruptcy and reorganization,” said Paul Newhouse, Union Medical Center CEO. “We've been struggling for several years, and we were certainly at a prospect where the hospital very well could have closed. The staff really did a good job in keeping the doors open and managing day to day and trying to cut costs wherever we could just to survive and look for a partnership of some kind. I think this is the perfect fit.”

A court-approved bankruptcy plan was developed, Aycock said, and it allowed Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System to “assume governance and operational management” of Wallace Thomson, Ellen Sagar Nursing Home and Carolina Health Associates.

Coming under the umbrella of Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System not only secured the hospital but it also secured a budget that would allow for equipment upgrades and replacement as well as new services being offered, Newhouse said. The name change went into effect in early August.

Union County Supervisor Frank Hart said he is excited about Union Medical Center staying open and operational. Unfortunately, like most rural hospitals, it was difficult for Union to be a stand-alone facility, Hart said. It became very important for it to be part of a larger system, he said.

Many Union residents were already using services at Spartanburg Medical Center, so it made sense for the Union hospital to become part of that system, Hart said.