Venice (Fla.) Hospital officials last week said a decision will be made within two months on whether to sell or partner with a for-profit hospital chain, merge with a not-for-profit hospital, or remain independent.
As one of the lone freestanding hospitals on Florida's southwest coast, 267-bed Venice Hospital has already been contacted by several not-for-profit and for-profit hospital groups, said Jack Norman, its president and chief executive officer.
Two of its suitors are Sarasota (Fla.) Memorial Hospital and Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp., Norman said. Sarasota Memorial is a 657-bed public hospital 20 miles north of Venice.
If Venice Hospital chooses Columbia, it would be a major blow to Sarasota Memorial's efforts to compete with the giant chain, which owns four of the nine hospitals in Sarasota and its three surrounding counties.
Sarasota Memorial and Venice Hospital have been working together this year to consolidate information systems and other support services to save money. Norman said a possible merger was nixed last year with Sarasota Memorial over antitrust concerns.
Still, Venice Hospital trustees are expected to consider several options, including resurrecting the merger proposal with Sarasota Memorial.