Hospital loses nonprofit suitor

Published 11:37 pm Friday, June 18, 2010

Staff Writer

New Hanover Regional Medical Center opted not to pursue a partnership with the Beaufort County Medical Center, according to a report in the Star-News of Wilmington.
That leaves just one non-for-profit medical center — Greenville-based University Health Systems of Eastern Carolina — among the list of 10 remaining potential partners for the medical center, formerly Beaufort County Hospital, according to a list of potential suitors provided by the hospital.
The for-profit systems among the local hospital’s suitors are located in Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Texas.
“I’m really not surprised that New Hanover has decided not to submit a response to our request for proposal. The preparation of a proposal is a time consuming and expensive process. I suspect that, after considering our proximity to Pitt County Memorial Hospital, and the fact that they were the only other nonprofit system that would be ‘competing’ in the process with UHS, they decided to withdraw,” said Bill Bedsole, chief executive officer of Beaufort Regional Health System. “I was actually more surprised when they expressed an initial interest.”
He also said he is not worried that the lack of competition will affect the proposal presented by University Health Systems.
“In my opinion, University Healthy Systems will submit the same proposal based on providing quality care to the people of eastern North Carolina that they would if they were competing with 10 other systems,” he said. “In my opinion, their proposal will not change.”
The news of New Hanover Regional Medical Center’s reported withdrawal came on the day of a meeting of members of the local medical community with the Beaufort Regional Medical Center Board of Commissioners, the governing body which oversees the hospital’s operations. Some members of the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners were expected to attend that meeting.
Ultimately, any decision to merge the hospital will need the approval of the hospital’s governing board and the county commissioners.
New Hanover Regional Medical Center spokeswoman Erin Balzotti told the Star-News, in a report posted Thursday on the newspaper’s Web site, that she had spoken with Jack Barto, the center’s chief executive officer, about the proposal.
“He said that after a more internal evaluation, we do not believe we are going to pursue the Beaufort Regional Health System opportunity for affiliation any further and that we wish them well in their analysis and alignment process,” Balzotti wrote in an e-mail to the Star-News, according to the report.
Attempts to contact Balzotti on Thursday were not successful.
Edwin M. “Sandy” Hardy, chairman of the board that’s debating the fate of Beaufort County Medical Center, and Dr. Thomas Penders, the hospital’s chief of staff, have said in interviews with the Daily News that they would prefer an alliance with one of the two nonprofit system over one of the for-profit systems.
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.
HealthCare Appraisers Inc., the Florida-based consultants guiding the local hospital’s search for suitors, contacted 32 nonprofit or for-profit businesses by letter to gauge their interest in some type of affiliation. Its next step is to help the hospital gather data on its operations to be used by the remaining 10 systems in preparing their bids that will be submitted to the BRHS Board of Commissioners.