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Archive for Thursday, August 23, 2001

Life breathed into reeling hospital

August 23, 2001

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— The reprieve for the cash-strapped Halstead Hospital could be a short one, if it proves unprofitable under its new management.

Tuesday, the hospital board agreed to a contract with Peak Management Corp., a company owned by Lost Springs entrepreneur Leslie Kitchenmaster.

That deal, under which Peak will work with the hospital's current management staff, will keep the hospital open past what officials had said would be an early October closing date.

An attorney for Peak said Kitchenmaster is making no long-term commitments, however.

"He's not doing this as any kind of philanthropy," attorney Chris Costello said. "He's not doing this to save the hospital or help the community. He believes there's some potential for profit there."

Kitchenmaster has a number of ideas for solving the hospital's $2 million cash flow problem, Costello said without going into specifics.

"A lot depends on what happens in the next several months," Costello said. "There will have to be dramatic changes in a few short months or nothing else is going to happen."

Peak is the parent company for Kitchenmaster's oil, gas and publishing interests in Marion, Morris and Dickinson counties.

The company was in forfeiture with the state after failing to file an annual report by an extended April 15 deadline. But Costello said the annual report was filed Monday, restoring Peak's good standing.

Peak is also the parent for Ag Ads Inc., which operates an agricultural and tool and die publication, and KOT Inc., which handles Kitchenmaster's oil and gas production operations.

The agreement caps a breakneck week of activity at the hospital, which entertained other prospective investment groups before Kitchenmaster intervened.

Dennis Turney, the hospital's chief executive officer, said groups from St. Louis, Tennessee and Las Vegas also made inquiries last week and took tours of the hospital.

"From a week ago today, it's been quite a marathon," he said.

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