FALLBROOK HOSPITAL: Welcomes New Bidder As Columbia Deal Dies
"Realizing their deal was going nowhere, directors of Fallbrook Hospital" last week "abandoned plans to affiliate with" Nashville-based Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. As a result, the financially troubled hospital "will look elsewhere to survive, even as the facility sinks deeper into debt," the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. The realization that Columbia was no longer interested in "the county's smallest and most remote acute care hospital" came after the large hospital chain "ignored our phone calls, ignored our faxes and letters we sent," according to hospital trustee Dr. James Landes. When Columbia finally contacted the hospital and said it was postponing the signing of an agreement by 30 to 60 days, the hospital decided "to review other alternatives." While hospital officials and trustees were embarrassed that a year's worth of negotiations and expenses went into the scuttled deal, opponents of Columbia's takeover of the hospital "were delighted." Eugene Kusmiak, founder of an anti-Columbia community group, said, "I think Columbia has all kinds of trouble and is dropping a lot of unprofitable connections they had, and their leaders decided Fallbrook wasn't worth their trouble" (Clark, 4/11).
Fallbrook has entered into negotiations with Community Health Systems Inc. for a 30-year lease to take over the hospital. The Union-Tribune reports that to many in the community, Ken Hawkins, vice president of acquisitions for Nashville-based CHS, "seems like a savior, riding into this rural town with dollars and promises to rescue the hospital from the jaws of financial ruin." Hospital trustee Greg Grajek said, "We see this as almost like a white knight. He's not just going to keep providing our current services, but he'll guarantee them for 10 years." CHS is proposing to pay Fallbrook $4.4 million up front for the lease, as well as $900,000 for its working capital and will "allow the public hospital district to keep the $500,000 a year collected from property taxes" to pay for regional health projects. In addition, CHS has pledged to "maintain a commitment to indigent care, to equip the hospital with medical equipment and supplies that are state-of-the-art, to use local doctors and current employees and to prepare marketing and public relations strategies that draw patients who might otherwise go to" other facilities. If the hospital board approves the proposal tomorrow, the deal would still need approval from "residents of the Fallbrook Hospital District," the Union-Tribune reports (Clark, 4/14).