Community Health Systems is once again a potential affiliation partner for Beaufort Regional Health Systems and will be active in the negotiation process, which could begin Nov. 8, according to a news release e-mailed to media this afternoon by BRHS Director of Marketing and Public Relations Pam Shadle. CHS, one of the four hospital businesses who responded to BRHS's Request For Proposal letters, had mysteriously rescinded its offer hours before an Oct. 27 public hearing regarding the bids.
The official reason for CHS's changes of heart is being held in confidentiality, and can only be presumed by the timeline of events: CHS was still in the game on Oct. 12, when by HealthCare Appraisers summarized all five offers before the BRHS hospital board. The only public meeting on the subject between the Oct. 12 summary and the Oct. 27 public hearing was the Oct. 19 meeting between BRHS employees and members of the BRHS hospital board, during which the employees expressed unanimous interest in solely pursuing the bid from University Health Systems of Eastern North Carolina. They backed out before an Oct. 27 public hearing, during which 22 speakers, mostly BRHS employees, spoke out in favor of a merger with UHS.
Beaufort County Commissioner Hood Richardson reads his motion to the Beaufort County Board Monday night.
In a telephone call earlier today, the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners' representative to the BRHS hospital board, Hood Richardson, avoided any admission that CHS's withdrawal was a direct result of this united, public display of employee favoritism for UHS. Instead, Richardson attributed CHS's resumed position at the table to a unanimously passed motion he introduced at Monday's Beaufort County Board of Commissioner meeting, which "cleared the air as to who is making what decision" and reaffirmed the power structure of the negotiation process.
"They were asking themselves, who was in charge," said Richardson.
On Oct. 28, explained Richardson, the BRHS hospital board had further attempted to confuse the process by restructuring it. Originally, CHS entered the bidding process under the assumption that initial negotiations would be solely between them and the BRHS hospital board, with the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners waiting for a recommendation to make the final decision. However, at the last hospital board meeting, BRHS hospital board Chairwoman Alice Mills Sadler announced the creation of a negotiating team, which would include two appointees from the BRHS hospital board, and two from the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners.
Before CHS could regain enough confidence to reenter the process, it was necessary to formally reassure them that a restructuring would not happen. Richardson's resolution, apparently, was successful in doing so:
I make a motion insisting that the hospital authority negotiate recommended terms and conditions of a future hospital lease to a qualified operator without input from the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners. The full body of the Beaufort County commissioners will review and amend, approve or reject, solely at its discretion, the authority's recommendation once the authority concludes its duties in this regard. The purpose of this motion is not only to urge the authority to quickly complete its work on making a recommendation, but also to encourage the four original suitors to participate in this clearly defined process.
Instead, according to Shadle's news release, the negotiating team will consist of Sadler, as BRHS hospital board chair; Dr. Brenda Peacock, as vice-chair; Richardson, as treasurer; along with one other board member appointed by the Sadler.
"This team will keep the full Board closely informed of any and all developments associated with the negotiations and the progress so that the Board is fully engaged and involved in the process," read the release.