published Saturday, August 10th, 2013

Plan to lease Hutcheson to Erlanger falls through, Georgia hospital to seek other suitors

The proposed lease of Hutcheson Medical Center to Erlanger Health System died quietly Friday night — the deadline for the deal to be signed.

At 5 p.m. Friday, a handful of Hutcheson officials met for about an hour behind closed doors at the Fort Oglethorpe hospital.

Just after midnight Saturday, Waterhouse Public Relations, which was hired by Hutcheson, issued a three-sentence news release stating that Hutcheson will seek bids from others entities to run the hospital, which is owned by Catoosa, Walker and Dade counties.

Waterhouse spokeswoman Nathalie Strickland wouldn’t say Saturday afternoon exactly what killed the deal.

“They weren’t able to formalize the lease agreement,” Strickland said. “The negotiations of a strategic plan and the deal points are confidential.”

The hospital has $56 million in debt. Its owners Catoosa, Dade and Walker counties, were asked to issue low-interest, 30-year bonds to reduce the hospital’s debt payments to a manageable $3.2 million a year. But they wouldn’t agree unless Erlanger promised to secure the debt so taxpayers wouldn’t be on the hook if the hospital fails.

Those were the sides’ public stances. All lease negotiations have been behind closed doors.

See complete coverage in Sunday’s Times Free Press.

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers Catoosa and Walker counties for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California. Stories he's covered include crime in blighted parts of metro Detroit and Reno, Nev.; environmental activists tree-sitting in California's Sierra Nevada foothills; attempts by the Michigan Militia to take over a township¹s government in northern Michigan. A native of Michigan, ...

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