published Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

Hutcheson to issue request for proposals; Catoosa County may back hospital bailout

Hutcheson Medical Center
Hutcheson Medical Center
Photo by Doug Strickland /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Hutcheson Medical Center today will issue a request for proposals to lease its Fort Oglethorpe hospital and other medical facilities to a new health care partner.

"Hutcheson is seeking a partner that can best serve the health care needs of the 150,000 people living in our tri-county service area," said Corky Jewell, chairman of the Hutcheson Medical Center board of directors in a news release. "These counties are among the fastest-growing in the North Georgia and Chattanooga region."

Meanwhile, at 9 a.m. Thursday, the Catoosa County Commission will hold a special meeting to consider whether to issue a $35 million bond anticipation note to refinance most of the hospital's $60 million debt.

"We'll talk about it," Catoosa Chairman Keith Greene said. "We're going to discuss it and possibly take action.

The bailout was requested by a group of Hutcheson doctors and the board of the hospital, which is owned by Catoosa, Dade and Walker counties. Walker and Dade county officials have declined to issue the bond anticipation notes before a new partner is found. So Catoosa County may go it alone and issue the $35 million bond anticipation note.

The RFP focuses on maintaining a "community hospital," the news release states, by finding a local or national partner willing to sign a long-term lease.

"Other criteria include the employment of the current hospital staff, proven experience in operating quality hospitals in similar communities, successful experience in actively working with local medical staff and recruiting physicians, and care to the uninsured and underinsured in the service area," the release states.

The RFP also allows respondents to put forth alternative proposals to the standard lease agreement.

Proposals will be due on Oct. 24. Ken Conner of Chattanooga-based Decosimo, the accounting firm managing Hutcheson's RFP process, said in the news release that it will likely take 45 to 60 days to solicit and review proposals.

During the proposal period, potential respondents will be able to tour the facilities, meet with medical staff, board members, county officials and members of the management team, the news release states. A single proposal will be selected in mid-November and a 60-day due diligence will begin. Once a final lease agreement is reached, it is subject to a 120-day review by the attorney general for the State of Georgia. The transaction would close following final approval from the attorney general of Georgia.

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

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers education 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.

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