Two small communities thousands of miles apart, one in Arkansas and the other in California, are working hard to reclaim their hospitals as locally operated not-for-profit institutions after years of long-distance for-profit ownership.
Officials of Triad Hospitals announced Sept. 22 that they had reached a verbal agreement to sell 75-bed DeQueen (Ark.) Regional Medical Center to DeQueen General Hospital Foundation. Triad is the Dallas-based company that Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. spun off in May.
Fifteen years ago, when DRGs were introduced, the city of DeQueen lost its nerve and sold the hospital to Hospital Corp. of America, which later merged with Columbia. After Triad was spun off, it put the hospital up for sale.
The company had been preparing to close the hospital if it couldn't find a buyer.
Triad said it expects the deal to close by Oct. 15. DeQueen Mayor Chad Gallagher declined to discuss the terms of the deal until it closes.
Christopher Holden, Triad senior vice president, said in a written release, "We believe that this transaction will be in the best interest of the community and will ensure the continuation of local healthcare delivery."
The town's residents hadn't wanted to lose their hospital, so they decided to buy it, Gallagher said.
"If you get care within one hour of an injury, your chance of survival is 75% better," Gallagher said. "My citizens are not going to spend their golden hour being transported to Texarkana," the nearest town with a large hospital.
Since DeQueen lacks the expertise to run a hospital, it has asked Christus St. Michael Health System in Texarkana, Texas, to manage the facility. The town will retain a strong voice in governance, however, the mayor said.
About 50 miles north of San Francisco, residents of Sebastopol are hoping to transfer control of their local facility, 49-bed Palm Drive Hospital, to a new tax-supported public hospital district.
In late February, a limited liability company formed by local businesses and community leaders bought the hospital from Columbia, which was planning to close the facility.
After the local limited liability company bought the hospital for about $2.8 million, including transaction fees and minor infrastructure improvements, it leased the facility to a new not-for-profit foundation, West (Sonoma) County (Calif.) Healthcare Foundation, for $1 per year.
Now the local owners want to recoup their money by selling the hospital to a new hospital district, which would operate it as a public facility.
They're engaged in a petition drive to put an initiative on the April 2000 ballot asking residents whether they support a new hospital district.
The district could issue the $5.9 million in bonds needed to defray Palm Drive's $2.8 million purchase price and affiliated costs and to make necessary capital improvements, supporters said.
"The business of for-profit hospitals is to make money. The mission of local control is to provide quality healthcare," said Bill Wood, a local businessman who is running the ballot campaign.