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Panhandle hospital still in shambles after Hurricane Michael

Administrator: 50-year-old Calhoun Liberty Hospital building may never reopen

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BLOUNTSTOWN, Fla. – Patients needing hospitalization in the hurricane-affected Florida Panhandle have fewer options these days. 

Emergency rooms in the hardest-hit areas remain open, but several hospitals, including one in Blountstown, remain closed to patients.

More than a month after Hurricane Michael ravaged Blountstown, water continues to leak into the Calhoun Liberty Hospital.

"The force of that storm was Cat (Category) 4 or maybe even higher when it hit," hospital administrator Chuck Durant said.

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The storm tore off the hospital's roof and smashed windows. While the emergency room remains open, the hospital remains closed to inpatients, with no reopening in sight.

On an average day, the emergency room will see 30 to 40 patients. 

Since Hurricane Michael, that number has been as high as 83.

"Falls off the roof, off a ladder," said Durant.

For many in the area, it is the only place to get care.

"This hospital is here to help out this rural population, and statistically a rural population has more health care needs," said advanced registered nurse practitioner Stan Whittaker. "They’re not as healthy."

The hospital has yet to settle with its insurance company, and with no revenue-producing patients, cash flow is a concern that might cause the facility to close its doors for good.

"You know, it could. It’s feasible because how do you generate revenue here?" Whittaker said. "If you’re not generating revenue, what’s the consequences?"

Durant said the hospital is close to getting a temporary roof on the building. 

When asked why only a temporary roof, he indicated the 50-year-old building may never reopen, adding building a new hospital takes time.

Patients needing hospital care in the Blountstown area are being sent to Dothan, Alabama, or Tallahassee.

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