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City to purchase hospital, potential partnership with UAB in works

The City of Greenville and an affiliate of Quorum Health Corporation have entered into a nonbinding letter of intent whereby the City will acquire L.V. Stabler Memorial Hospital, said Greenville Mayor Dexter McLendon.   

McLendon said it is the intent of the City to form a health care authority to own and operate the hospital and may enter into an agreement with UAB Health Systems to manage the hospital. 

“The city will lay the groundwork to purchase the building and the land of the hospital. And the authority, which will consist of five to seven qualified individuals, will structure the rules and regulations of daily operations of the facility,” McLendon said. 

In a statement issued Tuesday by Quorum Health Corporation (NYSE: QHC), Quorum confirmed that an affiliate of the company has signed a letter of intent to sell the 72-bed L.V. Stabler Memorial Hospital in Greenville, and its associated assets, to the City of Greenville. The statement outlined the divestiture is expected to close by Sept. 30.

“The authority will set up and own the equipment, and the plans are for UAB to manage the facility. I believe in less government,” McLendon said, adding the City of Greenville has no desire to be in the healthcare business. “However, we as a city can not allow our hospital to be anything less than successful for the citizens of our community.  The city made the decision a long time ago that we must have a hospital.

“This is a very good opportunity for our city to have a hospital managed by UAB at a very minimal cost.  Thanks to legislation passed in 2016, it allows UAB to come in and assist rural hospitals.  We’re very excited about the potential of having UAB be a part of our health care system, not only from their expertise and technology, but also by putting us in a position to have access to more physicians. 

“The letter of intent is simply to allow the city to move forward with plans and to ensure we continue to have a health care system in place in Greenville,” he continued.

L.V. Stabler Memorial Hospital CEO Donny Rentfro echoed the positive sentiments of the hospital’s employees and medical staff following a meeting held with McLendon Tuesday afternoon.

“We think the chance to work with the city moving forward is a wonderful opportunity,” Rentfro said.

“And the plan to affiliate with UAB—known in our region as a top health care provider—is nothing but great news for the residents of Greenville, Butler County and the surrounding areas.  It’s just a wonderful opportunity for us.”

Rentfro added that the purchase would mark a significant turning point in the lives of its staff, but that the resources and reputation of UAB would make it one for the better.

“I think in many ways, it is very much a new chapter for the organization,” he added.

“Some of the things—the hands-on folks and clinicians who provide great care, for example—have to keep providing that great care. With the future affiliation with UAB and those tremendous clinical resources that may become available to us, it’s them parlaying what we have already and just compounding that into something even better.  This next chapter is really going to be exciting.”

According to the letter of intent, negotiations are continuing and it is anticipated that a definitive agreement will be entered into on or before September 1, 2017, with the transfer occurring on Sept. 30, 2017.

“The letter of intent allows the city a timeline to work out additional details.  The city will not run the hospital, McLendon said. “We’re just setting up the authority that will decide the policies and procedures.  If all goes as planned, the experts at UAB will manage and run the day-to-day operations of the hospital.  Neither the mayor nor the city council has a desire to run a hospital.  Our goal is to find the best experts to do so, and we believe that is UAB.”

During the timeframe outlined in the Letter of Intent, there will have to be a funding source to help the hospital turn things around financially. 

The city of Greenville will provide a mechanism to fund the authority to make this happen. 

“We believe that you have to have a hospital and we will do whatever we have to do to make sure the money is provided that allows the hospital to be successful,” McLendon said. “The city council will devise a plan to provide funding, expects to outline the plan on or before Sept. 30, vote and move forward.

“Rural health care has to have some kind of source to pay for health care because the health care system is broke, and rural hospitals have to have a health care system.  If not, at some point down the road, they face the danger of closing doors or they’re going to have to have funding sources from their city, county or other sources.”

McLendon said that although the city has been in negotiations for some time to develop a plan to move forward with ensuring the success of the hospital, the opportunity for the city to partner with UAB has presented itself in the last month or so.   

“UAB is the top in the state, and one of the top in the country.  Having them partner with us in health care is an amazing opportunity,” McLendon said.  “We would not have gotten involved had the opportunity to partner with UAB not presented itself.  We have to have a hospital; we cannot turn our back on the hospital.

“A city cannot thrive without a successful hospital, and the city is dedicated to doing everything it can to ensure its citizens have the best.”