Hospital goes on market

Item File Photo Huntsville Memorial Hospital announced that it is actively looking to either merge with another hospital group, or better, sell its assets to a company that would be committed to quality health care in Huntsville and Walker County.

For sale: small community hospital that has been trying its best to stay afloat while continuing to provide patients quality medical services.

Simply put, that's the pitch Huntsville Memorial Hospital is currently making. 

Hospital district board members announced last week that they are actively looking to either merge HMH with another hospital group, or better, sell its assets to a company that would be committed to quality health care in Huntsville and Walker County.

"Recent changes to the health-care reimbursement system and the competitive health-care market — some attributable to the Affordable Care Act— have altered the traditional market for hospital services and forced medical facilities across the country, especially communities such as Huntsville, to assess their options for maximizing the viability of the hospital," said Robert R. Hardy, chairman of the Walker County Hospital District Board of Managers, in a prepared statement released Wednesday. 

"As responsible stewards of our community’s medical needs, the district is actively evaluating the best option for ensuring adequate funding to improve the hospital and provide additional services, with the underlying goal of providing quality patient care well into the future," Hardy added.

Hardy told The Huntsville Item that the hospital district and hospital administrators were in agreement that selling all of HMH's assets would be the best option.

"We went through a joint venture a couple of years ago. That was complicated and it didn't really work out," Hardy explained. "This time we're really focusing on a possible sale of the assets. ... That would mean selling the hospital and the equipment located on the property of the hospital's site. That would solidify the future of health care in Walker County."

Hardy said smaller hospitals in area communities like Madisonville and Cleveland have shut their doors recently. Huntsville Memorial Hospital, according to Hardy, is far from closing up shop, but the members of the Walker County Hospital District feel like they must do something to keep HMH up to date and to continue providing the best possible patient care.

"We're not fixing to close the doors," Hardy insisted. "We just want to be sure we get somebody to help us and that the hospital here is healthy. We want to have a healthy situation here.

"We need to do some expansion, and one way to provide our patients the best care possible is to either merge with somebody else or to sell to a company that would commit to making improvements. In the last four or five years, small community hospitals really have been hit hard. A lot of them have either merged with a larger company or sold out. In some cases, hospitals have closed their doors and they left a clinic open."

Established in 1975, the Walker County Hospital District was created to provide quality patient care to the community. Hardy hopes that continues for many years to come.

"For the past 40 years, the district has worked diligently to ensure that the community is offered a broad range of hospital services that meet the needs of county citizens, including Walker County’s indigent population," Hardy said. "We've been in operation for about 40 years and we've continued to add services. We want to maintain that and to add more services.

"... We need to expand again, particularly the Intensive Care part of the hospital, and we don't want to ask people for a tax increase."

Members of the hospital district have hired financial consultants Hilltop Securities and legal advisers Bracewell, LLP and Beatty Bangle Strama P.C. to assist in evaluating all options.

"Our priorities in undertaking this process are clear: maintaining a best-in-class facility here in Walker County that provides members of the public with the full range of medical services they require — and deserve," Hardy said. 

"The district is committed to transparency, and we will provide updated information to Walker County citizens throughout this process. To that end, we are creating a website where citizens can obtain information and provide their input. The website will go online soon.

"Like hospital systems across the country, the district is facing new challenges, but we are confident that we will find a resolution that achieves quality health care for the citizens of Walker County.”

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