Minnesota will continue to be virgin territory for investor-owned hospital chains.
The Itasca County (Minn.) Board last week nixed a $21 million offer from investor-owned Champion Healthcare Corp., Houston. Minnesota doesn't have any for-profit hospitals.
The board voted 3-1 to ask Champion to terminate negotiations over 73-bed Itasca Medical Center, a county-owned hospital in Grand Rapids. The move comes after weeks of pressure from county residents opposed to a deal with a for-profit corporation.
"The board has to sit down and decide what options are available," said Bob Olson, county coordinator.
A Champion spokesman said late last week that the company's executives were waiting for an official communication from the county before they would comment.
However, attorney Susan Clark, the county's agent in the negotiations, said Champion had indicated it would terminate talks without financial penalties.
Executives said county commissioners weren't allowed to talk publicly about negotiations until the end of August. Unless Champion agrees to go along with the board's decision, the hospital's fate could remain in limbo for several weeks.
Itasca County Board President Bob Loscheider told the Duluth News-Tribune that the county made the best possible decision given the mood of residents.
The county could rekindle talks with the Partners, a consortium of some of the state's largest health systems: Minneapolis-based Allina Health System, Benedictine Health System of Duluth and Duluth Clinic. The consortium's original offer was worth $9 million (May 27, p. 4).
Itasca Medical Center is attractive to investor-owned companies such as Champion because it's the dominant provider in Itasca County, an area of 40,000 people located about 160 miles north of the Twin Cities. The hospital earned $1.1 million on net revenues of $19.1 million in the 11 months ended Nov. 30, 1995.