Few speakers register for hearing on hospital

Published 12:53 pm Sunday, August 29, 2010

Staff Writer

Despite recently heated public debate over the future of Washington-based Beaufort Regional Health System, by late Thursday fewer than 10 people had expressed interest in speaking Tuesday at the first of a possible two public hearings on the subject, a hospital spokeswoman said.
The hearing has been set for 6 p.m. in the Multi-purpose Room of Building 10 on the Beaufort County Community College campus. The BRHS Board of Commissioners will conduct the hearing to receive comments on its resolution, adopted July 13, of its intent to “lease, sell, or otherwise convey” the system’s hospital operations to another health-care provider.
The Beaufort County Board of Commissioners, which will ultimately decide BRHS’s future, has been invited to attend, according to Pam Shadle, BRHS director of marketing and public relations.
Those interested in speaking are asked to call 252-975-4211 by noon Monday to be added to the list of speakers, but people may sign up to speak the evening of the hearing, Shadle said.
Groups representing many people who hold the same or similar views are asked to designate a spokesman to speak on behalf of an individual group.
A 1 1/2-inch thick document, called a request for proposal, was sent July 21 to 14 potential merger partners. Under the terms stated in the document, those who receive the RFPs have until early September to respond to it via HealthCare Appraisers of Florida.
Greenville-based University Health Systems of Eastern Carolina; Health Management Associates of Naples, Fla.; Capella Healthcare of Franklin, Tenn.; Universal Health Services Inc. of King of Prussia, Pa.; Sunlink Health Systems Inc. of Atlanta, Ga.; Ameris Health Systems of Nashville, Tenn.; LHP Hospital Group of Plano, Texas; Jackson Hospital Affiliates of Alpharetta, Ga.; Progressive Acute Care, LLC, of Mandeville, La.; Nueterra Healthcare of Leawood, Kan., and Brinn Healthcare, Community Health Systems Inc., LifePoint Hospitals Inc., and RegionalCare Hospital Partners of Brentwood, Tenn., are the health-care providers who were reported to have received the documents.
State law requires the BRHS Board of Commissioners to conduct two public hearings when seeking proposals to transfer health-care operations. And if its commissioners receive proposals to lease or purchase BRHS, a second public hearing will be held no sooner than 30 days after Tuesday’s public hearing, Shadle said. 
The RFP asks for two proposals. The first asks prospective partners to respond to a BRHS request for a 20-year lease that would begin “on or about” Dec. 1, 2010. The second asks potential partners “to be creative. If you see an alternative way to accomplish our objectives in lieu of the preferred leasing structure, we invite you to propose your best ideas without restrictions.”
The RFP includes data on the BRHS operations, a list of requirements for prospective partners and about five pages of questions to determine how the prospective partner would address the needs of the local health system.
The RFP identifies challenges faced by the health system including some $18.1 million in debt and more than $21.1 million in construction needs.
In addition to future construction needs, the RFP asks any suitor to meet nine basic requirements. Those include providing quality care to all people in the community, regardless of their ability to pay; staying current with advancing medical technology, seeking to aggressively improve BRHS’s market share and providing a good work environment for health-system employees.
The RFP states that “an important consideration” in evaluating responses from potential partners will be their “commitment to understand and effectively address these matters.”