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BRIDGEPORT -- Doctors' Hospital in Bridgeport was a labor of love for nearly a dozen founding doctors. The city of Bridgeport backed a three million dollar line of credit, to help the hospital get started.

It opened on August 31, 2008.

Two weeks later, Lehman's declared bankruptcy. Stocks plummeted, and the financial nightmare began.

The expected deluge of patients did not show up. Americans were postponing surgeries they could live without. Within a few months, Bridgeport had to start making interest payments on the loan it had backed.

It has impacted some of our operations, said Brandon Emmons, city administrator.

Faced with more than $13,000 in interest payments a month, Bridgeport eliminated two city jobs.

Doctors Hospital, now known as North Texas Community Hospital, draws on a reserve fund to make its mortgage payments. That money could run out by the end of the year.

Max Ludeke took over as CEO last year. He concedes the hospital is not bringing in enough money to make its mortgage payments.

We're working with the lenders, and we believe within a few years we'll be able to, we just need some more time, said Ludeke.

Time is running out, however. The city owes the bank for that $3 million loan it backed. It's due in January. City leaders briefly considered walking away, but decided against it.

It's not the right thing to do, Emmons said. The city did sign on as the guarantor on the line of credit. We have a legal obligation to make sure we're good at our word, and we pay our debts.

Bridgeport is working to refinance the loan.

Ludeke said four new doctors have signed on this summer since July. If they can bring in just four or five more patients each day, he said, the hospital could break even.

E-mail chawes@wfaa.com

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