Voters in Amarillo, Texas, overwhelming approved selling the city's hospital to Universal Health Services, an investor-owned chain based in King of Prussia, Pa.
The May 4 advisory vote, followed by the expected approval of the city commissioners last week, was all that was needed to complete the sale of 350-bed Northwest Texas Hospital to Universal for $120 million.
Because few public referendums have been held in recent years to sell public hospitals to investor-owned chains, the vote represents a milestone.
Under the agreement, the public hospital will set up a trust of $187 million, which will pay Universal an average of $7.5 million annually over 25 years to provide indigent care (April 29, p. 148).
The vote to sell the hospital was 10,804 for and 7,025 against, representing a 61% to 39% split. About 22% of the city's voters turned out, which was "very high for an off-year election," said William Webster, the hospital's president and chief executive officer.
Universal owns 13 other acute-care hospitals, of which three are in southern Texas.