Hospital acquisition nearly finalized

Item File PhotoThe Walker County Hospital District is expected to take over operations at Huntsville Memorial Hospital, in a partnership with Community Hospital Corporation.

A multi-million dollar taxpayer acquisition of Huntsville Memorial Hospital is nearly finalized.

On Wednesday, the Walker County Hospital District’s Board of Managers gave authorization to Chairman Anne Woodard to execute an asset purchase agreement and other ancillary agreements with the near-bankrupt Walker County Hospital Corporation — a private organization responsible for the day-to-day operations of HMH.

The board also gave Woodard authority to execute documents related to a management agreement with Plano-based Community Hospital Corporation. CHC is expected to takeover day-to-day operations as part of a new joint-venture board in the coming weeks.

“After discussions with our attorney, we have decided to go down this path, which is the next step in the process,” district board member Dr. David Toronjo said. “The welfare of the public and the taxpayers of Walker County has to be our No. 1 priority. … Our goal is to maintain a hospital in Walker County and this is the next step.

“To say that this is a difficult decision is a vast understatement.”

Hospital district officials did not confirm a final purchase price for the assets in the agreement. However, previous analysis studies showed that WCHC owned nearly 10% of the hospital’s assets.

“It’s important for the public to know that this (purchase agreement) will become public information in the next several weeks,” Toronjo added. “It has not been signed by the other party, and there are several other steps that we have to put in place first.”

Hospital district officials announced last week that the corporation is expected to file Chapter 11 Bankruptcy this month.

The corporation, which is ran by a group of local citizens and doctors, has been gifted $2.9 million in subsidies and has eluded $5.4 million in missed rent payments to the taxpayer entity.

“The district board has been doing everything in its power to address the corporation’s dire financial situation, including providing substantial financial subsidies to the corporation and deferring rent payments owed to the district,” hospital district chairman Anne Woodard said in a release last week. “The district’s board of managers has been working to stabilize the hospital’s finances because the corporation has been unable to operate the hospital so that it is financially viable.”

The next meeting of the Walker County Hospital District is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 13 at 6 p.m.

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