After years of negotiations and one failed attempt at partnership, Saint Thomas Health Services and Baptist Hospital System, both in Nashville, committed themselves late last week to another shot at cooperation.
The agreement comes after a memorandum of understanding signed by the providers in May. Financial terms were not disclosed.
Under the plan, Saint Thomas would buy Baptist's assets, which include three acute-care hospitals and an interest in a hospital the systems jointly run, and then form a new not-for-profit system to oversee their five hospitals in central Tennessee. The new system will not be named until the deal is completed, which is expected by year-end. The providers said only a review by the Tennessee attorney general is pending.
The hospitals are Nashville's 510-bed Baptist Hospital and 450-bed Saint Thomas Hospital; the jointly run 189-bed Middle Tennessee Medical Center, Murfreesboro; 65-bed Baptist Hickman Community Hospital, Centerville; and 52-bed Baptist DeKalb Hospital, Smithville.
The new system would be sponsored by Saint Thomas' parent, Ascension Health, St. Louis, a 54-hospital Roman Catholic system. Ascension would appoint the new system's board, drawing from the existing Saint Thomas and Baptist boards, which would be dissolved, and from the community. Thomas Beeman, president and chief executive officer of Saint Thomas, would take on those titles and duties at the new system, too. Erie Chapman would remain president and CEO of Baptist.
Both men were initially hired after the "virtual merger" between the providers failed in May 1998. Little explanation was made for the failure, although control seemed to be the sticking point. Chapman was hired in July 1998, Beeman in October 1999.