BRHS-deal contract ready soon

Published 1:13 am Friday, July 29, 2011

Lawyers working on an agreement that will determine the fate of Washington’s hospital hope to have a contract ready for public review within two weeks and that a final vote on that contract occurs no later than Sept. 1.
“We’re working through the details of the hospital-transfer document,” said Raleigh lawyer Robert L. Wilson in an interview Wednesday night.
Wilson represents Beaufort County in the negotiations among the county, Beaufort Regional Health System and Greenville-based University Health Systems of Eastern Carolina over a lease-purchase offer by UHS for the Washington health-care system.
“We still don’t have final agreement on all the terms,” Wilson said. “We’re doing everything in our power to get this finished.”
Wilson’s comments came after he met with the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners in a closed-door meeting Tuesday night that lasted about 1 1/2 hours.
Wilson said that while Sept. 1 is the target date for completing the deal with UHS, if the talks “hit a snag, it may be later.”
“There are issues that need to be addressed,” he said. “And we need to get it right.”

The UHS Board of Directors is expected to vote on the agreement in an upcoming meeting, according to Beth Anne Atkins, a public-relations specialist with UHS.

“University Health Systems of Eastern Carolina is working diligently with Beaufort Regional Health System and Beaufort County to complete the lease of Beaufort County Medical Center and the Beaufort Regional Health System physician practices,” Atkins said in a statement released Thursday morning. “We are anticipating Sept. 1 as our closing date.”
Once the county, BRHS and UHS settle on the terms of the contract, state law requires the contract be available to the public to review for at least 10 days before the county commissioners and BRHS Board of Commissioners vote on it, she said.
Sept. 1 is the latest in a series of target dates for completion of the deal announced by local officials.
In January, following the withdrawal by Community Health Systems of its offer, the BRHS board voted to accept a lease-purchase offer from UHS and hoped to reach an agreement within 45 days.
In March, UHS lowered its offer for the 30-year lease-purchase agreement from $30 million to $25 million in an amended letter of intent presented to members of the BRHS board.
That letter of intent also reduced the $10 million that UHS initially offered for the purchase of the BRHS property at the end of 30 years by “the amount of any Excluded Liabilities paid by UHS on BRHS or its affiliates behalf.”
The letter also stipulated that UHS will reserve the right “to require a portion of the prepaid lease payment to be placed in an escrow account for a reasonable period to be used by BRHS or its affiliates to pay any Excluded Liability.”
In early May, local officials announced that an agreement could be reached by mid-June. But in June, those same officials said they hoped to complete the deal sometime before the middle of September.
The ultimate decision on the fate of BRHS lies with the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners.