One of the nation's largest public hospitals is negotiating to lease a facility from the country's largest for-profit hospital chain.
The Public Health Trust of Dade County, Fla., which operates 1,376-bed Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, has been in talks with Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. to lease 233-bed Deering Hospital in Dade County. Deering, which was battered in 1992 by Hurricane Andrew, has been rebuilt and has rebounded.
"We're negotiating, but we don't have a contract," said Laura Hunter-Goggins, a spokeswoman for Deering Hospital. She said talks, which she characterized as amicable, began more than two years ago.
Jeff Prescott, a Columbia spokesman, said the chain, which has closed or sold 28 hospitals since becoming embroiled in a federal fraud investigation two years ago, has negotiated several other hospital leasing arrangements, including one with a North Carolina public hospital.
Conchita Ruiz-Topinka, a spokeswoman for Jackson Memorial, confirmed the negotiations and agreed there's nothing conclusive to report yet.
"There have been no major obstacles, but this has been on the back burner for a while now," said Ruiz, who added that Jackson Memorial operates two other hospitals and several clinics.
Fred Messing, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Baptist Health System of South Florida, said Baptist's four-hospital network will not object to the leasing arrangement, nor does he think it poses any antitrust concerns.