List of suitors interested in BCMC narrowed

Published 10:51 pm Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Staff Writer

The list of potential partners for Beaufort County Medical Center, formerly Beaufort County Hospital, was narrowed to 11 last week and includes two not-for-profit and nine for-profit medical centers, according to information provided to the Washington Daily News by the hospital.
The list includes Greenville-based University Health Systems of Eastern Carolina and New Hanover Health Network of Wilmington — both nonprofit systems — and for-profit systems based in Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas.
Sentara Health Care of Norfolk, Va., Catholic Health Initiatives of Denver, Co., and Duke University Health System in Durham declined the hospital’s offer to submit a proposal. The remaining 18 systems that were contacted did not reply by the deadline, hospital officials said.
Meanwhile, the chairman of the board that’s debating the fate of the medical center and the hospital’s chief of staff said in interviews with the Daily News that they would prefer an alliance with one of the two nonprofit systems over one of the for-profit systems.
“If the concern is about community involvement in the hospital, then a nonprofit is the better option,” said Edwin M. “Sandy” Hardy, chairman of the Board of Commissioners of Beaufort Regional Health System, the hospital’s governing body. “I think the nonprofit systems are a better fit.”
Hospital Chief of Staff Dr. Thomas Penders said the county’s medical community would prefer to align with a system that is not focused on making money for its shareholders, as are for-profit systems.
“If we can get to the point that we agree that we need to merge, the question becomes who we should merge with,” Penders said in a recent interview. “The local physicians would be very concerned if the commissioners entertained selling to the highest bidder. The community would fare much better with a nonprofit system.”
University Health Systems of Eastern Carolina, whose lead hospital is Pitt County Memorial Hospital, maintains some type of affiliation with seven other hospitals in eastern North Carolina including those in Elizabeth City, Tarboro, Ahoskie, Edenton, Kenansville, Windsor and Nags Head. New Hanover Health Network, whose lead hospital is New Hanover Regional Medical Center, also includes a hospital in Burgaw, according to information supplied by local hospital officials.
HealthCare Appraisers Inc., the Florida-based consultants guiding the local hospital’s search for suitors, contacted 32 nonprofit and for-profit businesses by letter to gauge their interest in some type of affiliation. The next step is to help the hospital gather data on its operations to be used by the 11 systems in preparing their bids that will be submitted to the health system’s Board of Commissioners.
Bill Bedsole, Beaufort Regional Health System’s chief executive officer, said he was “surprised” that only two nonprofit health systems responded to the letter but that others may have been deterred by the already strong presence in the region of the Greenville-based system.
“I am a little surprised that only two not-for-profit companies responded to the letter of inquiry. However, in retrospect because others are aware of our close proximity to University Health Systems and because of the collegiality that other large not-for-profits in the state share with UHS, that may have kept others from responding,” he said.