BRHS accepts new UHS offer

Published 7:45 pm Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Staff Writer

In an unexpected move, the Beaufort Regional Health System Board of Commissioners voted 7-2 Tuesday night to accept a revised affiliation offer from Greenville-based University Health Systems of Eastern Carolina.
With this action, final approval of a UHS deal moves to the Beaufort County commissioners. Because the county owns the hospital buildings, the county commissioners have final say over any lease, purchase or affiliation offer with the financially-stressed BRHS.
Tuesday’s vote came during a shoulder-to-shoulder meeting of the BRHS board, witnessed by a packed house and an overflow crowd that watched the proceedings on a TV monitor.
After the vote, most members of the public on hand signaled their approval with loud, sustained applause.
Prior to Tuesday night’s vote, it was reported UHS had increased its offer to $30 million from the $24 million it initially offered to lease the hospital for 30 years. Under the revised proposal, UHS would have the option of buying the local health system for $10 million at the end of the lease.
Further details of the possible deal weren’t immediately available.
The only two BRHS board members who voted against the UHS proposal were Hood Richardson and Howard Cadmus.
Earlier this month, Cadmus and Richardson joined BRHS board Chairwoman Alice Mills Sadler, Clifton Gray and Allen Roberson in endorsing an offer from Community Health Systems of Franklin, Tenn.
CHS had proposed leasing the hospital for 30 years and $30 million.
Citing public opposition to that first BRHS board vote and a legal challenge from two Beaufort County residents, CHS withdrew its offer last week.
Richardson, who also serves as a Beaufort County commissioner, indicated he was pleased with the progress made in getting the UHS proposal closer to what had been presented by CHS. He has been an ardent opponent of a BRHS affiliation with UHS, and has been critical of people who have spoken in favor of a partnership with the Greenville-based health-care provider.
“I think that the offer that UHS is making is getting real close to where we need to be, it’s approaching the CHS offer,” said Richardson. “And I’m delighted that we have worked this thing for the benefit of the people of Beaufort County up to where we are today. And those who have participated on the positive side are to be congratulated, and those who have participated on the negative side are to be kicked.”
The motion to accept the UHS offer was made by Clifton Gray with a second from board member Suzanne Gray. Clifton Gray, one of the five hospital board members who had supported the CHS offer, had changed his mind by Tuesday night.
“I think that the revised (UHS) offer is essentially somewhat of a win-win for the public interest and the bottom line,” he said Tuesday night.
In remarks to her colleagues and other attendees, Sadler suggested money matters rose to the fore as local health system officials prepared to move forward with the affiliation process.
“The bottom line ended up being the fiduciary issue,” Sadler said.
Before Tuesday’s key vote, it was announced that although LHP Hospital Group of Plano, Texas, had not withdrawn its proposal, the health-care entity didn’t want to proceed in a divisive way but would consider keeping its terms on the table if it could enter into some sort of alliance with UHS.
Sadler made it known UHS wasn’t interested in partnering with LHP. This, in essence, meant the Texas group was no longer under serious consideration by the hospital board.
Portions of this story were reported Tuesday night on the Washington Daily News’ website.
For more on Tuesday’s developments, see Thursday’s print edition.