Once again, Tampa (Fla.) General Hospital is discussing a plan to privatize the 681-bed public facility.
This time, its plans may include a joint operating agreement with Tenet Healthcare Corp., according to news reports.
Tampa General board members last week told the St. Petersburg Times that a "consensus" had been reached on the privatization and plans to affiliate with Tenet. Tampa General and Tenet wouldn't discuss terms of a potential affiliation.
A hospital spokeswoman later said she couldn't confirm the board members' discussions. She did say they were "reviewing many options."
Tenet officials would only say they are having many conversations with different providers in the Tampa and St. Petersburg area.
By converting to private, not-for-profit status, Tampa General would be able to contract with Santa Barbara, Calif.-based Tenet, the nation's second-largest investor-owned hospital chain, or a similar company. A privatization also would allow the hospital to avoid Florida laws requiring public disclosure of most business dealings.
The move comes seven years after the board rejected a similar privatization plan. That effort received opposition from Tampa's black community, which thought a privatization would hurt the area's low-income residents.
This time, however, a Hillsboro County commissioner said the plan would be more palatable to the area's black community because there are "three African-Americans on the board as well as the head of the hospital," Hillsboro County Commissioner Thomas Scott told the Times, referring to Bruce Siegel, Tampa General's president and chief executive officer.
Siegel couldn't be reached for comment at deadline. The privatization of the hospital would follow one of Siegel's first major accomplishments after he was hired last year.
Siegel won board approval to create a private subsidiary that would provide staffing on a contract basis to the hospital. Tampa General's 3,400 workers became employees of the subsidiary Jan. 1, thus exiting the state's pension system and allowing the hospital to set up a less expensive retirement system.
The hospital proj-ected it would save $11.5 million this year and $90 million over 10 years in a private retirement system.
A deal with Tampa General would give Tenet, which acquired Nashville-based OrNda HealthCorp earlier this year and now owns 127 hospitals, an even larger presence in the Tampa Bay region. Tenet already owns two hospitals in the area and is part of a major not-for-profit system there.
Last year, Dunedin, Fla.-based Morton Plant Mease Health Care, a three-hospital system, and OrNda signed a letter of intent to form a partnership that would allow Morton Plant to lease 122-bed North Bay Medical Center in New Port Richey from OrNda.