A war between Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. and National Medical Enterprises over who will buy South Miami (Fla.) Hospital is nearing the courts.
This week, the 406-bed not-for-profit hospital was expected to finalize a deal with NME. If completed, it may prompt a lawsuit from Nashville, Tenn.-based Columbia/HCA in the midst of NME's $3 billion merger with American Medical International, sources said.
"This is real sensitive stuff," said John Geanes, South Miami's president and chief executive officer.
He acknowledged the hospital is talking with Santa Monica, Calif.-based NME. He declined to specify details of the negotiations, saying it would "not be an appropriate business decision to make comments."
NME's spokeswoman, Diana Takvam, said the chain is talking to South Miami because the hospital would be a "significant addition to our evolving network."
The controversy turns on a noncompete agreement that Dallas-based AMI signed with Columbia/HCA in June 1991. At the time, Columbia Hospital Corp.-then an 11-hospital chain-bought Kendall Regional Medical Center in Miami from AMI. As part of the deal, AMI said it wouldn't compete in South Miami.
Sources said NME is trying to finalize a deal with South Miami before its acquisition of AMI is completed early next month to avoid the noncompete clause. Geanes denied that the hospital is trying to rush a deal, noting that the hospital's board and foundation would have to approve such a transaction.
Last year, South Miami went on sale and received bids from Baptist Hospital in Miami and five investor-owned chains: AMI, Columbia/HCA, Nashville, Tenn.-based OrNda HealthCorp, NME and Nashville-based Healthtrust. South Miami signed a letter of intent with AMI (Nov. 14, p. 4).