By: Robin Ford Wallace, Reporter
During the past
couple of years amid the fluctuating fortunes of Hutcheson Medical Center, Dade
as well as Walker and Catoosa, the other two counties that share it as their
official public hospital have vowed by hook or by crook to keep it from
recent developments, Hutcheson appears fated to keep its doors open only under
a sign proclaiming, “Open Under New Management.”
matter was on the agenda of a special called meeting of the Dade County
Commission on Sept. 12. But Executive Chairman Ted Rumley recommended tabling
it after the three-county Hospital Authority Board canceled its own meeting
scheduled for later the same evening – and after the board had the day before
issued a request for proposals (RFP) soliciting other health care providers to
submit offers for taking over Hutcheson’s premises, its staff – and its
approximate $60 million in lingering debt.
Rumley and his
fellow Dade County commissioners had made it clear earlier in the year they
would not back a bond issue for a proposed low-interest refinancing of
Hutcheson’s indebtedness unless they were easy in their minds that the payments
would be made by someone other than Dade taxpayers.
summer, that somebody seemed to be on the horizon: Chattanooga’s Erlanger
Medical Center had partnered with Hutcheson since signing a 2011 management
agreement, and now seemed poised to take over more fully under a proposed lease
and Hutcheson failed to reach accord by the agreed Aug. 9 deadline, and shortly
afterward announced they were ending their partnership altogether.
a Sept. 10 press lease issued by Waterhouse Public Relations, mouthpiece for
Hutcheson in the past few months, the Hospital Authority Board is seeking with
its RFP any and all health care providers, regionally or nationally, qualified
and willing to lease Hutcheson long-term. "Hutcheson is seeking
affiliation that allows for greater integration and collaboration, as well as a
greater investment of resources in Hutcheson,” reads the press release.
And as to terms
of management, the release made it clear those are negotiable, specifying: “The RFP also allows respondents to put forth
alternative proposals to the standard lease agreement.”
due on Oct. 24, after which the press release predicts a 45-to 60- day review
period before a single candidate is chosen, then a 60-day due diligence. After
all that, adds the release, any proposed lease agreement is subject to a
120-day review by the attorney general of Georgia.
assured the press release, “Hutcheson continues to grow its outpatient offering
and deliver high quality medical care.”
In the past 18
months, points out the release, the hospital has opened clinics in pulmonology,
cardiology, multi-specialty services and urgent care. And on Sept. 9, Hutcheson
opened a new primary care clinic in south Catoosa County as well as a
transitional care clinic.
asked this Monday for updates on the Hutcheson story, said he’d been informed
by the Hospital Authority Board that the RFP had already brought in some
interest, including from what the board called two major hospitals.
share the names with me, though,” said Rumley. “They said it was all top-secret