The controversial sale of a Lincoln, Neb., hospital to its competitor could be subject to local voter approval, if a citizens' group has its way.
The hospital is city-owned 217-bed Lincoln General Hospital. After 15 months of public debate, the city council voted 5-2 last December to authorize a $37 million sale of the hospital to 316-bed Bryan Memorial Hospital, also in Lincoln.
The May 6 city elections, however, could change the pending deal. A city-charter amendment put on the ballot this month would bar the sale of city assets worth more than $20 million without a public vote.
If approved by voters, a special election on the sale of Lincoln General would be scheduled, but probably not until late summer, a city spokeswoman said.
Such a vote would add to the already grueling road traveled by Lincoln General in seeking a new operator.
The city's third hospital, 208-bed St. Elizabeth Community Health Center, offered $40 million for Lincoln General and additional assets, such as a home health agency.
In studying alternatives, city fathers sought public opinion through a Gallup poll of 1,011 adults, a community task force and an Internet site, among other tools.
Their studies indicated citizens wanted economic development in the area, a result that favored a deal with Bryan Memorial.
Lincoln General's board and the City Council concluded a sale to Bryan Memorial could create a regional medical powerhouse, while a sale to St. Elizabeth would link two underutilized facilities.
According to the citizens who sponsored the ballot initiative, the wrong questions were asked. The community should have been asked to visualize the future of Lincoln General, said Kandra Hahn, a leader of the Committee to Save Lincoln General (Feb. 17, p. 48). Instead, the debate was narrowed to a sale of the hospital.
A new opposing citizens' group, called Friends of Lincoln General, believes only a sale of Lincoln General can avert an increase in city taxes.