By: Robin Ford Wallace, Reporter
When Alex Case,
Dade County’s 911 director and one of its representative on the three-county
Hospital Authority Board, reported on the issue at the county commission’s Aug.
1 meeting, he said a lease agreement between Chattanooga’s Erlanger Medical
Center and Hutcheson Medical Center, Dade’s designated public hospital, was
chugging full-steam ahead to meet its deadline of Aug. 9.
But news came
over the weekend that an unspecified torpedo had interceded somewhere along the
way and the deal was dead in the water.
hazy: “The negotiations of a strategic plan and the deal points are
confidential,” wrote Nathalie Strickland of Waterhouse Public Relations, the
firm that now speaks for Hutcheson, in an email responding to the Sentinel’s
are unable to comment about specific lease term negotiations or discussions,”
she continued. “The parties worked together to evaluate several different
alternative arrangements. Unfortunately,
they were not able to reach mutual agreement through the negotiations and were
unable to finalize a lease agreement.”
The deal was
vital to Dade in that an Erlanger lease of Hutcheson, which is in debt to the
tune of over $50 million, would have given the county the sense of security it
required as a condition of backing a bond issue – essentially cosigning a loan
– to refinance Hutcheson’s indebtedness.
Walker counties had already lined up behind such a bond, but Dade, which uses
the hospital far less, had resisted putting taxpayer money on the line for the
refinance deal. Even after local
legislation forced Dade to sign on or risk losing representation on the
hospital board, the county commission had agreed to the deal only grudgingly
and only contingent upon the Erlanger lease.
for the county in signing on had been the changes coming under the Affordable
Care Act, or so-called Obamacare.
Commissioners had been warned that with those expected complications,
border counties such as Dade should ensure they have indigent care lined up
within their own states.
consideration of course remains, but at press time neither Alex Case nor Dade
Executive Ted Rumley had returned phone requests for comment on this matter.
Case had, however, previously stated that if the Erlanger deal did not go
through, the board would in any case lease the Hutcheson facility to somebody.
will report further on this issue as more details become available.