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Top Stories No. 5: Munroe hospital tax fails, private operator now sought

COUNTDOWN: The Star-Banner newsroom voted the Top 10 stories of 2012:

Ocala, FL - December 26, 2012
Published on on Wednesday, December 26, 2012 at 9:34 a.m.

Munroe Regional Medical Center is shown on Thursday March 1, 2012. MRMC is Marion County's public hospital.

In November, Marion County voters were asked whether they wanted to grant the Marion County Hospital District's request for a new property tax to combat declining revenues.

And when the tax failed, trustees announced that the board would seek a new operator for the public hospital.

That was the No. 5 local story of 2012. Each day since Dec. 22, the Star-Banner has been counting down the Top 10 local stories as chosen by the newspaper's staff.

Munroe is a public hospital owned by the people of Marion County. It is currently financially stable but has been steadily losing money in recent years.

Munroe officials blame the trend in part on the uncompensated care the hospital provides to low-income residents and unfavorable reimbursement rates with insurers.

After the tax failed, the trustees launched a year-long quest to find a company to run Munroe profitably.

Duke Lifepoint Healthcare and a partnership between Shands HealthCare and Naples-based Health Management Associates have pledged to pay tens of millions of dollars for the right to run Munroe long-term, and both say they can reverse the hospital's financial slide.