Buckling to pressure from the community, the board of trustees at Boca Raton (Fla.) Community Hospital rescinded its controversial decision to sell the 334-bed not-for-profit facility.
Just one week after hospital trustees said they would delay final action on a sale until Jan. 1, the board voted unanimously to rescind its letter of intent to sell the hospital to a group of not-for-profit healthcare systems. "Everything is back on the table," said Andrea Knibbs, spokeswoman for the hospital. "The board's not saying that nothing's to be done. (Board members) want the community involved."
The board is considering a deal under which Allegany Health System, Tampa, Fla.; Intracoastal Health Systems, West Palm Beach, Fla.; and Eastern Mercy Health System, Radnor, Pa., would purchase the facility for $190 million and assume an undisclosed amount of its debt.
However, the prospective buyers don't view last week's board vote as the death of their hopes.
"We don't consider it a show-stopper, but a prudent move to slow down and take a look at everything," said Pat Bowers, a spokeswoman for the group of prospective not-for-profit buyers. "Our offer remains on the table."
The board has been under fire in the last month. The hospital and its trustees have been sued twice this month in Palm Beach Circuit Court over the proposed sale.
The Florida attorney general sued, demanding the proposed sale be consistent with the wishes of the hospital's donors. That suit could lead to closer examination of sales of not-for-profit hospitals to other not-for-profits, not just for-profit chains.
In addition, a group of community citizens and hospital founders, known as Save Our Hospital, also sued, accusing trustees of scheming to control sale proceeds (Dec. 16, p. 8). The suit also says the hospital should remain under local control to preserve the intention of donors in the community.
Both suits continue to be active.
Board members say they want to refocus efforts to preserve the hospital in the community's interest.
"The fact that every vote was unanimous should demonstrate to the community that our goal is to preserve Boca Raton Community Hospital for the future," board Chairman Ray Osborne said.
Osborne himself received a vote of reassurance at the board's meeting. The board voted that he continue as chairman. Board members also urged the hospital's administration to "step up a program to expand the hospital's managed-care development efforts."