BRHS deal in sight

Published 12:51 am Thursday, August 11, 2011

New Beaufort County Manager Randell K. Woodruff (seated, second from left) met with the Beaufort County commissioners on Wednesday night as the commissioners reviewed a proposed contract for the operation of the local hospital. Before the meeting, he talked with (left to right) Commissioners Robert Cayton and Al Klemm and interim County Manager Jim Chrisman. (WDN Photo/Betty Mitchell Gray)

Vote on hospital’s future tentatively set for Aug. 25

A decision on the fate of Washington’s hospital and affiliated medical practices is tentatively set for a vote by hospital and county leaders Aug. 25, according to one of the lawyers working on an agreement.

The Beaufort County Board of Commissioners and the Beaufort Regional Health System Board of Commissioners are scheduled to meet that day to decide the fate of a proposed contract with Greenville-based University Health Systems of Eastern Carolina for the lease-purchase by UHS for the local health system, said Raleigh lawyer Robert L. Wilson in an interview Wednesday night.

Wilson represents Beaufort County in the negotiations among the county, BRHS and UHS over the UHS offer.

“We are still moving ahead,” he said.

Wilson’s comments came after he met with the county commissioners in a closed-door meeting that lasted about one hour Wednesday night.

During that meeting, the commissioners reviewed a draft of the contract with UHS but took no vote on the document.

Randell K. Woodruff, who takes over the helm of Beaufort County’s governmental operations Sept. 5 and was visiting Washington for the day, also attended the closed-door session.

After the meeting, Commissioner Hood Richardson told reporters that he expects changes will be made in some of the wording of the contract before it is released to the public.

Once the county, BRHS and UHS settle on the terms of the contract, state law requires the contract be available for public inspection for at least 10 days before the county commissioners and BRHS commissioners vote on it, Wilson said.

If lawyers can agree on the final wording of the contract in the next few days, it will be available for public review as early as Monday in the county manager’s office, he said.

If they can’t agree, the meetings of the two boards will have to be rescheduled, he said.

“If we can’t get it done, we’ll have to adjust the schedule,” Wilson said. “Hopefully, the documents will be ready Monday.”

Meanwhile, a series of meetings has been scheduled for BRHS employees, beginning Monday and continuing through Aug. 25, to review operational changes at the local hospital if the lease/purchase deal is completed.

BRHS employees are scheduled to be briefed about changes in retirement plans and other aspects of their employment in a second series of meetings set to conclude by Sept. 1.

Sept. 1 is the latest in a series of target dates for completion of the deal between the county, BRHS and UHS.
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.

In early May, local officials announced 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.