Friday, October 29, 2010

TOP STORY > > Allegiance offers $8M for hospital

By garrick feldman
Leader executive editor

Allegiance Health Management, the firm that has operated North Metro Medical Center in Jacksonville under a management agreement, is buying the hospital for about $8.3 million, which would go mostly toward retiring the bond debt on the city-owned hospital.

 The plan to sell the 118-bed hospital will go to the Jacksonville City Council on Thursday. 

The option to purchase North Metro is part of the original management agreement the council authorized and signed in January 2009.  

Although the hospital has lost millions of dollars in recent years, Allegiance has reduced those losses and some months even showed a profit. Allegiance plans to offer more long-term care and other services to make the hospitable profitable.

Mike Schimming, the hospital’s chief executive officer, made the announcement at a meeting with employees on Friday.

He said Allegiance Health Management plans to exercise its option to purchase the hospital in early November.  

Rock Bordelon, president and chief executive officer of Allegiance, made a previous announcement at the hospital board meeting on Wednesday. 

The hospital will continue to be known as North Metro Medical Center and the board will retain ownership of the medical clinics in Jacksonville and Cabot.

Mayor Gary Fletch-er said Friday, “It is important that we keep the hospital open, especially for the air base since they’ve closed their hospital.”

Fletcher said North Metro cannot compete with larger hospitals in the area and must find a niche that still makes quality care available to the community, especially the emergency room.

He said having a hospital in the community is a plus for everyone, including the military, which sees health care as critical when military bases come under review for closures.

“The board and Allegiance look forward to this new stage of growth as we continue to focus on our renewed vision for NMMC,” the company said in a prepared statement Friday.

“This change of ownership of North Metro will assure continuity of care for our community. An advisory committee comprised of members from our current board of directors and medical staff will work with Allegiance to help manage and grow North Metro’s services,” the statement said.  

“The sale of the hospital to Allegiance will ensure that Jacksonville continues to have a fully functioning hospital and emergency room.”

As part of the purchase, Allegiance plans to renovate the emergency room and the old rehabilitation wing. 

Allegiance is also planning to add new services such as acute rehabilitation and adult psychiatric services. Plans also call for expanding surgery, laboratory work and medical imaging. 

The in-patient geriatric psychiatry unit was expanded to 31 beds this summer, and several out-patient services, such as the Wound Center, physical rehabilitation and home health, have seen growth as well. 

Schimming said no personnel or administration changes are planned, and the board and Allegiance expect “a seamless transition.” 

“We will continue to focus on being your community hospital, providing quality health-care and excellent customer service,” Schimming said.  “We look forward to expanding our role in the community and building our partnership with the Little Rock Air Force Base.”

In Arkansas, Allegiance also has hospitals in Little Rock, Dardanelle and Eureka Springs.