Florala hospital sold

Published 12:05 am Thursday, October 28, 2010

Florala Memorial Hospital has a new owner, new services and possibly a new name – Florala Community Hospital.

Dr. Robert Devrnja and his Knoxville, Tenn.-based company have staffed the hospital’s emergency room since 2006. When financial issues forced United Florala Inc., the company owned by the Hinson Family, to sell, he said he jumped at the opportunity to purchase the hospital.

“First off, I want to stress that we are here for the community,” Devnja said. “We will support it 100 percent, and we hope they support us 100 percent.

“The hospital had financial issues, which are not gone away by any means,” he said. “But this is my plan – increase services and reopen the clinic seven days a week. In Florala, there’s not an option of where to get medical services beyond ER, and a lot of what comes into the ER is not an emergency.

“My plan is to use the ER physician to staff the clinic as well,” he said.

Devrnja said he has four physicians who will serve one-week rotations in Florala.

“At the clinic, we’ll take walk-ins and schedule appointments, so if you have a particular doctor you like, you can schedule an appointment,” he said.

Devrnja said he is also in negotiations to bring a new fulltime physician to Florala.

“I’ve got two good prospects,” he said.

As of now though, Devrnja and the hospital staff are busy doing a “little face lifting,” he said.

“We’re trying to brighten things up,” he said. “One thing I’d like to do is change the name, if I can. ‘Memorial’ was used back in the 50s and 60s. In the 80s, it went to medical center. This is not a medical center by no means, but we are a community hospital, and I think the name should reflect that – Florala Community Hospital.”

Devrnja said he knows it will take time to get the hospital up and running. Residents are now seeking medial care and hospital care outside of Florala. He hopes to change that with his new clinic.

“This is a 28-bed hospital,” he said. “Today, we have three patients. The hospital can’t survive on that. We need to average 13-15 to survive. I think we can get there. All the support we can get in using this facility is greatly appreciated. I can say right now, Florala Hospital is not going to close.”

Devrnja said Blair Hinson remains the hospital administrator; however, all executive decisions will be “on my shoulders.”

He has hired a consultant to get things “up and running,” he said.

“I have Don Muhlenthaler who has 40 years of hospital administration experience, working and guiding us through transition process,” he said. “This is going to be a process, but I don’t want people to remember the way (the hospital) was; I want them to remember as it will be – a part of the community.

“Our motto is ‘Well treated; treated well,’” he said.

Devrnja and his company, Hospital Holdings, owns five other hospitals in Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina and now, Alabama.

It is unknown when the clinic will open.