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Status Conference Held In 44-Indictment Case Against Former Glenwood Hospital Owner

A “status conference” was held in Wheeler County Superior Court February 20 concerning the case against Norman King, former owner of Lower Oconee Community Hospital in Glenwood. King was indicted in 2018 on 44 counts of theft by taking. The Glenwood hospital laid off all employees and closed permanently in 2016 under King’s tenure.

Oconee Judicial Circuit District attorney Timothy Vaughn said last week that representatives of his office, the defendant’s legal team, and court officials met to discuss “pretrial postures” in the case, which is expected to be tried before the end of the year. The event was not a formal hearing. A pretrial hearing is expected to be scheduled in the next two months.

King, a resident of Warner Robins, is accused of allowing insurance policies for 44 former employees of the hospital to lapse.

An article which appeared in The Advance in June 2016 announced that administration for Lower Oconee Community Hospital had been forced to lay off employees. A Macon television station reported at the time that the hospital had been unable to meet its payroll for the past two pay cycles prior to the announcement.

A news release issued by hospital administration noted that the payroll problem stemmed from Medicare and continued from page

Medicaid of Georgia suspending the facility’s provider number. With an accounts receivable balance of over $3 million that was subsequently uncollectable until the numbers are reinstated, there was not enough cash flow to pay employees of Glenwood’s largest employer.

“The problem is that prior to my taking over ownership of the hospital there was a diversion in services during the winter storm in February of this year (2016). After I became owner, it was brought to my attention that there was an issue with the provider numbers as a result of the diversion,” King stated at the time. Charges regarding insurance payments for employees occurred later, with the indictments being handed down in 2018. The health pandemic delayed the case progressing in the courts.

King, a Warner Robins businessman, assumed ownership of the 25-bed medical facility in late February 2016 after a temporary suspension of operations. The facility was progressing through a restructuring and was to reopen under the auspices of Charlton Healthcare Corporation as a critical access hospital March 1, 2016.

Since opening in the early 1960s, the Glenwood hospital provided emergency care and hospitalization for the residents of primarily rural Wheeler County and neighboring Telfair County, which closed its hospital in McRae in 2010. The closest medical centers for these counties are in Dublin, Vidalia, Hazlehurst, and Eastman, each roughly a half-hour or more away. The facility also served the Wheeler County Correctional Facility, owned by Corrections Corporation of America. The facility houses up to 3,000 inmates and has its own medical staff and clinic, but relied on the Glenwood hospital for x-rays and emergency labs.

Built in 1960, the hospital was originally owned by the county but was sold to a private corporation around 1980. The facility expanded in the mid-1980s and once had up to 40 beds.

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