published Thursday, June 6th, 2013

After late-night talks, no Erlanger-Hutcheson hospital deal yet

People exit Erlanger at Hutcheson in Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., in this file photo.
People exit Erlanger at Hutcheson in Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., in this file photo.
Photo by Ashlee Culverhouse /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

A full day after the deadline passed, Erlanger Health System leaders said Wednesday that negotiations involving the leasing of Hutcheson hospital in Fort Oglethorpe are "continuing."

Hutcheson leaders originally had set a Tuesday deadline for Erlanger to decide whether to enter into a leasing agreement with the North Georgia hospital.

But an agreement was not reached by then, with some phone calls going back and forth as late as 1:30 a.m. and into Wednesday morning, some leaders said.

A team from Erlanger has run the troubled Hutcheson hospital since 2011, and they say they've made its daily operations profitable.

But with some $56 million in debt, the Erlanger team says the only way they can make the hospital work long term is by getting the debt refinanced through a low-interest, 30-year bond backed by Catoosa, Walker and Dade counties.

County officials have said they'll issue the bond only if Erlanger or another hospital promises to cover the debt through a long-term lease.

County officials gave Erlanger a Tuesday deadline to issue a letter of intent to lease the hospital, which would be the first step toward hammering out a multipage lease document.

Contact Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6651.

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 township┬╣s government in northern Michigan. A native of Michigan, ...

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