Maricopa County, Ariz., next week is expected to name consulting firm S.K. Ching & Associates as the finalist in the bidding for the takeover of the county's debt-ridden healthcare system.
Although the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors has the ultimate say in who receives the contract to run the system, two of the three bidders were eliminated by an evaluation committee, according to Thomas Rawles, board chairman.
Because the mandatory criteria in the county's request for proposals included a stipulation that bidders be not-for-profit organizations, a bid from for-profit OrNda HealthCorp of Nashville, Tenn., was eliminated.
A joint effort between Mercy Healthcare Arizona and Samaritan Health System, both Phoenix-based not-for-profit systems, also was counted out. The Mercy bid proposed to incorporate the county system into the two systems' services. The county had requested that bidders purchase, lease or agree to operate all assets of the health system, and pay the county for all acquisitions.
The selection announcement probably will come a few days after a board meeting slated for Dec. 20, Rawles said. The finalist will then negotiate with the county for about three months.
The parties have been vying to take control of a system that includes 550-bed Maricopa Medical Center, 13 clinics, four health plans and several other properties. The system is projected to lose $18 million this year.
Stan Ching, managing partner at Calabasas, Calif.-based S.K. Ching, confirmed that his group is still in the running. S.K. Ching worked on three debt-reduction projects for Maricopa County's health system since 1993 and has had several other management contracts with urban municipal health systems. He declined to comment on his proposal.
Throughout the process, the board has emphasized that whoever takes over the system must make a commitment to providing care to the poor, as well as to maintaining the teaching program at Maricopa Medical Center.
Earlier this year, S.K. Ching lost a separate bid with Maricopa County. The company was one of two consulting firms that each wanted more than $1 million to run Maricopa County's health system for about a year, or until it could be privatized.