New life for St. Francis Hospital

Just two months ago, St. Francis Hospital was about to close its doors for goods. But on Wednesday, the 103-year-old hospital, now called Metro South Medical Center, got a second chance.

About 300 people braved the mid-day heat to witness the renaming and re-dedication ceremony. Glee Hibbler, who worked at St. Francis for 50 years, helped cut the ribbon.

"I don't think it matters what you call it. It's a hospital and it's got many of the same dedicated expert healthcare workers so it will be here for the community," said Hibbler.

In April, hospital officials announced St. Francis would have to close because of financial losses. Then, the owners said the hospital would lose an expected $20 million in 2008 alone -- in part due to a growing number of uninsured patients.

"The hospital had been troubled, for sure, and we have been and continue to be very optimistic about its future," said Arnie Kimmel, MetroSouth Medical Center.

MSMC Investors purchased the hospital for $1. The group plans to invest millions of dollars into new equipment and upgrades. Officials said changes will come in the management of operating costs- not staff cuts. All employees were offered jobs and 90-percent accepted.

"Our expectation is that we can break even the rest of this year, and turn to profitability next year," said Kimmel.

"It was a breath of fresh air for us all here. We were just hoping it would go through," said Bernard Charles, employee.

"I'm grateful for the change and I have great expectations for the hospital, even for myself as an employee here," said Venus Bell, employee.

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