Recommendation may be near on the health system affiliation|Decision could come as early as Monday

Published 2:40 pm Friday, December 24, 2010

Contributing Writer

A recommendation on the future of health care in Beaufort County could come as early as Monday afternoon, the Daily News has learned.
Sources have confirmed that a Beaufort Regional Health System committee that has been negotiating over the health system’s future could be prepared to make its recommendation to the BRHS Board of Commissioners Monday afternoon.
The committee – comprised of the BRHS board’s executive committee, Chairman Alice Mills Sadler, Vice Chairman Brenda Peacock and Secretary Hood Richardson, and board member Suzanne Gray, has been conducting a second round of negotiations with the health system’s potential partners.
The committee met at lunch Wednesday in a closed-door session with representatives from Greenville-based University Health Systems of Eastern Carolina and conducted a conference call with representatives of Franklin, Tenn.-based Community Health Systems Inc. later that afternoon, according to Pam Shadle, BRHS public information officer.
The committee is scheduled to meet Monday – also in a closed-door session – with representatives of LHP Hospital Group of Plano, Texas, according to Shadle.
The BRHS board is scheduled to meet at 3 p.m. Monday following the negotiating committee meeting, according to a meeting notice distributed to local news outlets on Wednesday by Shadle.
At that meeting, the BRHS board could vote to recommend an affiliation arrangement to the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners.
Monday night, the county commissioners will meet in a special session called for the board “to hear and discuss any updates regarding the RFP process for a future operator of Beaufort County Hospital and its real estate,” according to a meeting notice distributed Thursday morning by County Manager Paul Spruill 
That meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. in the Superior Courtroom of the Beaufort County Courthouse, according to the meeting notice.
The county owns the building housing the Beaufort Regional Medical Center and its surrounding real estate. The county commissioners will ultimately determine the local health system’s fate.
The commissioners’ meeting was called in anticipation of a possible recommendation by the BRHS board, sources familiar with the negotiations have told the Daily News.
Since late October, the BRHS board has been considering offers presented by four potential suitors who responded to the health system’s Request for Proposals, or RFP. – Brim Healthcare, Community Health Systems Inc., LHP Hospital Group and University Health Systems of Eastern Carolina.
That RFP asked for two proposals from potential partners. The first asked potential partners to respond to a BRHS request for a 20-year lease that would begin “on or about” Dec. 1, 2010. The second asked 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.”
UHS initially presented a proposal for a 20-year lease; CHS, a 30-year lease plus two 10-year renewals; Brim Healthcare, a three-year management services arrangement with one two-year renewal, and LHP Healthcare, separate proposals for a 30-year lease with two 10-year renewals and a 80/20 joint venture arrangement.
These proposals have been the subject of negotiations since early November.