Bladen citizens can comment on the future of their hospital at the Bladen County Board of Commissioners meeting on July 9. At that time, the commissioners will hold a public hearing on the hospital affiliation process as Bladen County Hospital seeks a partner to invest in the financially challenged facility and restore it to health. As part of that process, County Manager Greg Martin received three proposals from health care corporations. Two of them are from for-profit companies, Pioneer Health Services from Magee, Miss., and Alliant Management Services from Louisville, Ky. An offer from a nonprofit charitable corporation close to home may be the most viable option, according to Martin. Cape Fear Valley Health System from Fayetteville submitted a 37-page proposal that addresses his key concerns.
“I think the proposed offer by Cape Fear Valley is very much in line with what we are looking for,” he said. “I hope the negotiations go well.”
According to the executive summary included in the proposal, CFVHS “is committed to fulfilling the health care needs of Bladen County residents through its relationship with Bladen County Hospital.” The proposal includes promising figures along with the positive wording. To begin with, the CFVHS will form a subsidiary corporation, the Bladen County Hospital Corporation, then sublease its right to operate the existing Bladen County Hospital to the newly formed corporation. The existing board of trustees will remain as an advisory board.
There is more than corporate paper shuffling involved here. Under the proposal, CFVHS commits to spend $7.5 million on capital improvements over the five year lease period; plus, if BCH makes a profit, that will mean more money to upgrade the facility. In addition, CFVHS will assume the BCH debt of $3,572,217 and also pay for the consulting and legal costs needed to close the deal. After five years CFVHS will have the option to purchase the hospital outright.
Clinton Weaver, Director of Marketing and Outreach for Cape Fear Valley Health System describes the proposal as a “win-win” situation for everyone.
“We look forward to working with our neighbors in Bladen County,” he said. “I understand that fixing the roof at Bladen County Hospital is a pressing priority.”
As part of the process, Weaver said CFVHS will study Bladen County to determine what services and types of physicians will be needed to improve health care for the area. CFVHS will benefit when BCH refers patients to its other facilities for further treatment in a competitive health care market.
“Right now, we know a lot of Bladen County patients travel to Wilmington and Lumberton,” he said. “It is a short and convenient drive to Fayetteville.”
If the process goes through, Bladen County residents may have a new hospital at home. According to page 22 of the proposal, CFVHS “views the construction of a replacement hospital facility as an option to be seriously considered” and claims net assets of more than $290 million as of Sept. 30, 2006. Since CFVHS is a tax-exempt organization it has access to lower cost financing options. CFVHS operates in six counties with about 4,200 full-time employees and 450 physicians.
A hospital is more than buildings. It takes skilled and caring people to make it work. Page 24 of the proposal reads that CFVHS is committed to retaining the hospital’s employees but prefers to employ the staff through the proposed subsidiary corporation that includes the retirement plan used by other CFVHS employees. However, the paragraph noted the advantage of the state retirement system for Bladen County employees and states that “CFVHS will consider offering exceptions to its plan.”