By Rich Heiland
Free Press Publications, LLC
For Walker County News Today
THE WALKER COUNTY Hospital District Board will hold an executive session prior to its monthly meeting Wednesday, 6 p.m. 2ndFloor Meeting Room A, Huntsville Memorial Hospital.
That executive session will be to discuss the possible sale of property – including the current hospital facility along I-45 and the Ella Smither property downtown. Pending litigation as well as legal issues related to communications, administrative matters and district policies also are on the closed session agenda.
Last month the managers voted unanimously to hire the investment banking and bankruptcy reorganization firm Hammond Hanlon Camp, LLC, (already hired by the operating agent, the Walker County Hospital Corporation board). The WCHC hired it to help find a new owner or operator for the hospital. That firm specializes in helping clients through bankruptcy as well as in sale of assets.
Clarification– The Hospital District Board is a public body elected by voters and provides indigent care as well as owning the physical real estate including the hospital; the Walker County Hospital Corporation is non-public, rents the facility and manages it.
Rumors have been floating that the Hospital Corporation would declare bankruptcy, sooner rather than later, and that the Hospital District would agree to sell the current real estate, including the hospital building, to a prospective buyer. That buyer then would both own and operate the hospital. Sources have told the WCNT that it is unlikely a buyer in today’s medical market would be that interesting in managing a hospital where it also could not control physical property related to care.
Last month WCHC Chairman Mac Woodward denied rumors the hospital group would declare bankruptcy “in the immediate future.”
When the district managers hired the Hammond firm, Board Chair Anne Woodard said, “The firm will be representing the District with regard to a transaction that may include the sale of the hospital corporation’s assets to an appropriate healthcare system,” Anne Woodard said prior to last night’s vote. “It will help find a purchaser for the assets of the District, which includes real estate and equipment or a lease.”
She said the vote was needed to begin a process to find a “district partner, hopefully a purchaser that can provide a lot of capital back into hospital purchasing power and have leverage with supply companies and also meet the quality of care needs at our hospital.”
She also pledged to make public any actions the board takes around the hospital.
The board of managers also will hold a public hearing on the 2019 budget during Wednesday’s meeting.
Rich Heiland, former publisher of the Huntsville Item and owner of Free Press publications, LLC, a reporting/writing firm working with media, has been a reporter, editor and publisher at several daily papers. He was part of a Pulitzer Prize winning team. He taught journalism at Western Illinois University. He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org or 936-293-0293.