A change of leadership might end the 2-year-old dispute that cost an Omaha, Neb., hospital a seemingly advantageous merger.
Bishop Clarkson Memorial Hospital was set to gain $84 million in a 1995 sale to Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp., but its plans were derailed by a deal cut 43 years ago. The 201-bed hospital bought land from nearby University of Nebraska Medical Center in 1953. According to a Douglas County District Court judge in Omaha, it gave the medical center right of first refusal on Clarkson at the same time.
Although Clarkson relinquished its Columbia venture, it wasn't eager to join UNMC and petitioned the court for clear title. A truce was reached last month. Clarkson and the medical center agreed to suspend litigation on the matter for 60 days of settlement talks. The negotiation period expires in early January.
The new UNMC chancellor, William Berndt, said he is committed to resolving the dispute and repairing relationships with other local hospitals. "We don't have anything to report at this time, but we are talking," Berndt said.
He replaces Carol Aschenbrener, M.D., who resigned Sept. 30 after a fight with powerful physicians. The cause of their discontent, a potential partnership with six-hospital Alegent Health in Omaha, is under review.
There also has been friction between UNMC and 100-bed Children's Hospital in Omaha, according to local newspaper reports. That's because of a pediatric network UNMC formed with 12-bed Boys Town National Research Hospital in Omaha.
Meanwhile, Clarkson won't pick up negotiations with Columbia. "Columbia is behind us," said Louis Burgher, M.D., Clarkson president and chief executive officer. "It is not really an issue at this point in time."
And if it does come up in the future, selling a not-for-profit hospital to a for-profit company has a new hurdle to cross in Nebraska. A law that took effect in April requires state approval of such deals and public disclosure of all sales-related documents (May 20, p. 40).
Of the 93 members in the Nebraska Hospital Association, only two are owned in whole or in part by for-profit companies.
The holdings of Columbia, which had great ambitions in Nebraska when it first signed with Clarkson, are limited to a home health agency in Omaha.