The Hutcheson Medical Center exited the ambulance business in 2008. Ambulance duties were assumed by Walker County Emergency Services, by Angel Emergency Medical Services in Catoosa County and by Lifeguard Ambulance Service in Dade County.
The recently adopted Walker County budget for 2015 shows no direct support of the hospital.
Following the hospital’s near financial collapse in 2011, Walker and Catoosa taxpayers guaranteed lines of credit totaling about $20.5 million that the hospital used to support its day-to-day operations. Those guarantees allowed the hospital to secure loans/lines of credit at more favorable rates, something that is possible because creditors are willing to loan money to any entity that has the ability to repay loans with tax revenue.
Update: After a lawsuit that went on for several years in U.S. District Court, a federal judge ruled in Erlanger’s favor and ordered Catoosa and Walker counties to make good on their guarantees.
Catoosa’s legal wrangling with Erlanger hospital over repayment of $10 million, its share of the loan guarantee, ended in June 2016, when the county’s five-member Board of Commissioners agreed to pay the Chattanooga-based hospital $6.25 million to settle the matter out of court. That payment was made from Catoosa’s cash reserves.
Walker County, having no cash reserves, is faced with the prospect of either assessing taxpayers to raise the amount demanded by Erlanger, or to continue the matter before a jury.