Public hearing set on hospital’s future

Published 12:12 am Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Contributing Writer

The public will have the chance tonight to tell the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners what it thinks about a proposed lease/purchase offer from University Health Systems of Eastern North Carolina for the local hospital and its affiliated services.
A public hearing on the issue is set for 6:30 p.m. today in the auditorium of Building 8 on the campus of Beaufort County Community College. The hearing will come at the end of a regular monthly meeting of the commissioners that is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m.
The purpose of the public hearing is to hear comments related to an existing proposal from UHS for a 30-year lease of the local health-care system.
Those members of the public who want to speak may sign up in advance by calling the Beaufort County manager’s office at 252-946-0079 before noon today.
Those who want to speak at the hearing also may register to do so at the door, county officials have said.
The Beaufort Regional Health System Board of Commissioners has recommended to the county commissioners the lease/purchase offer by UHS for $30 million with the option to buy the property for an additional $10 million at the end of that lease.
Ultimately, the county commissioners will decide whether to accept, amend or reject the BRHS board’s recommendation.
This is the third time in recent months the public has been given the chance to comment on the future of health care in Beaufort County.
At two previous public hearings — held by the BRHS board with the county commissioners in attendance — an overwhelming number of speakers favored some type of affiliation with UHS.
The BRHS medical staff, Town of Washington Park and several local civic clubs have favored the affiliation.
Alice Mills Sadler, BRHS board chairwoman, and Dave C. McRae, UHS chief executive officer, last week signed a letter of intent which allowed UHS to move forward with its inspection of the BRHS financial records and operations — a process known as “due diligence.”
According to that letter of intent, BRHS and UHS officials hope to complete the due diligence review by April 29.
County Manager Paul Spruill in a previous interview said that review would not affect the county commissioners’ responsibility of studying and approving the documents for the underlying ground lease of the health system.