Weston medical center files for bankruptcy

CLEARWATER – Margaret J. Weston Medical Center has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection to avoid depleting its financial assets to pay a $500,000 civil lawsuit regarding the termination of a former medical director.

 

On Friday, the estate of Paul D. Weston, whose first wife founded the medical center in 1970, rejected an offer for the center to pay the judgment in monthly increments over a three-year period, said interim CEO Carolyn Emanuel-McClain. Including interest and penalties, the clinic owes the estate more than $800,000.

Dr. Weston sued the clinic in 2004 stating that the board of directors breached the two-year, $280,000 contract he signed to serve as medical director in 2002, according to Augusta Chronicle archives. He was fired in July 2003, and, at the time, his attorney Donald Gist said that it was due to the center’s financial woes – not any fault of his own.

Since the estate did not accept the board’s offer, a receiver would have been appointed to help the board liquidate its assets, Mrs. Emanuel-McClain said. Board members and their attorney were to appear in court this morning if the center had not filed for bankruptcy Monday evening.

“We just hadn’t had the money,” she said. “We didn’t have a large amount of excess income, so if we liquidated there would be no services available or they would be curtailed.”

The clinic serves primarily low-income patients at its main clinic in Clearwater and two other satellite locations in Aiken and Jackson, Mrs. Emanuel-McClain said. The bankruptcy was a measure to avoid shutting down the satellite clinics or affecting medical care in other adverse ways, she said.

“It will not have any impact on patient and services,” she said. “Our clinical staff is barebones, so if we’ll make any reductions it would be from an administrative standpoint not clinically. Our plan is to continue to protect the quality service our patients have become accustomed to.”

The center is still obligated to pay Dr. Weston’s estate, but a judge will decide what amount the estate would receive, Mrs. Emanuel-McClain said.

It will be between 30 and 60 days before that decision is made.

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