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Munroe presentations start Tuesday

Ocala, FL - September 27, 2012

Published in the Ocala Star Banner on Thursday, September 27, 2012 at 3:38 p.m.

Three heavyweight healthcare companies will make presentations to Munroe Regional Medical Center officials next week, trying to show they would be the best pick to lease and take over the operations of the hospital. The public is invited to attend and ask questions.

Hospital District trustees are entertaining lease bids as a means of generating the money that hospital executives say is necessary to remain competitive. As part of any lease agreement, the hospital wants a commitment of $150 million for improvements to the facility.

While hearing health care company offers, district trustees also are asking voters to consider a hospital tax to help support the financially struggling medical center.

Voters will consider a tax referendum Nov. 6 that would generate an estimated $65 million over five years. If the referendum passes, the trustees are expected to forgo any new lease agreement for the foreseeable future.

Overseeing the health care company search and presentations next week is Ponder & Company, hired by hospital district trustees.

Ponder’s Ed LeMaster, during a trustee meeting this week, said the presentations are meant to allow hospital officials to get to know the health care companies and see if their business cultures and missions are compatible with the 421-bed Munroe.

“The purpose is to get a feel for these groups, not get into the nitty gritty,” LeMaster said.

Munroe is owned by the state-sanctioned Marion County Hospital District and is overseen by seven trustees who are appointed by the County Commission. The trustees currently lease the hospital to Munroe Regional Health System Inc., which is overseen by a 13-member board, some of whose members also are district trustees.

Munroe consultant Casey Nolan of Navigant said that although hospital officials can ask financial questions of the health care companies, he recommended trying “to get below the numbers and words.”

He said business culture incompatibility was the cause behind problems following mergers more often than strategical differences.

“Culture eats strategy’s lunch every day of the week,” he said.

But work-group member Dr. Harvey Taub asked how hospital officials could determine a health care company’s “culture.”

“You’ll see the culture come through ... with how they interact with one another … and answer questions,” Nolan said.

Community Health Systems is offering $406.7 million to lease Munroe, which includes $150 million for master facility plan capital improvements. The Tennessee-based company owns or leases 135 hospitals in 29 states.

Duke LifePoint Healthcare, a joint venture of Duke University Health System and LifePoint Hospitals, is offering $375 million for a 40-year lease.

Health Management Associates, which owns or leases 70 hospitals, is offering between $440.2 million and $500.2 million.

The three companies also say they would not drop unprofitable, but important, medical services.

Community Health Systems agreed not to discontinue or substantially reduce hospital services for at least five years. Duke LifePoint Healthcare promised to continue all of the hospital’s core services, including obstetrics, pediatrics and diabetes programs. Health Management Associates said its would keep Munroe’s medical programs in place, but might have to adapt to a changing health care environment.

Nolan also provided the work group with dozens of potential questions in various categories to pose to the health care companies.

He also recommended asking questions as to how they addressed problems at their other hospitals, and suggested posing hypothetical scenarios.


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