Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Health

City Council sinks deal to alter ownership of Bayfront Health St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — After months of tense negotiations and weeks of political impasse, the City Council on Thursday derailed a proposal that would have changed the ownership structure of the city’s largest hospital, Bayfront Health St. Petersburg.

The 5-3 vote scuttled a deal that would have allowed the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg, a nonprofit that owns 20 percent of the hospital, to sell its share, separate from Bayfront and expand its charitable mission. The hospital’s majority owner, Nashville-based Community Health Systems, would have paid the foundation $26.5 million.

The deal also would have eliminated about $1.5 million in costs the foundation incurs annually from its partial ownership of the hospital, according to Randall Russell, the foundation’s CEO. He said it would have allowed the foundation to focus on programs to significantly improve the overall health of residents in southern Pinellas County.

But after two hours of debate at Thursday’s council meeting, as hospital and foundation officials urged approval of the deal, a majority of council members grew suspicious of the hospital’s refusal to guarantee a certain amount of charity care.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Owner of Bayfront Health St. Petersburg faces federal inquiry over funds for low-income patients

The council had the final say over the proposed transaction because the city owns the land under the hospital and leases it to the hospital’s owners under 50-year agreement signed in 2013. That lease requires the hospital to continue providing charity care to St. Petersburg’s poorest residents, though it does not set a specific amount.

Mayor Rick Kriseman’s administration contends the proposed deal warranted reopening the lease, with new terms including a provision requiring CHS to provide at least $10 million in charity care each year.

While the company says it provides $60 million in charity care annually at Bayfront and was willing to put the $10 million pledge in its sale agreement with the foundation, it was unwilling to reopen the lease.

That refusal made several council members question the possible motivations at play.

"The only place I can go is a suspicious place," council member Charlie Gerdes said. "It’s a provision in the lease that a purchaser wouldn’t like."

Council member Lisa Wheeler-Bowman had a similar take.

"Why is the hospital so reluctant to put it in the lease agreement?" she said. "One of my obligations is that the community continues to receive charity care. I don’t understand why the hospital won’t commit."

A commitment letter from the foundation promised $1.25 million to promote access and use of health care by poor city residents through 2022 with an additional $250,000 to pay for a study of charity care needs in the city. But that offer expired Friday.

It wasn’t enough for council members Gerdes, Wheeler-Bowman, Amy Foster, Ed Montanari and Steve Kornell, who voted against the sale.

Council members Karl Nurse, Darden Rice and Jim Kennedy voted in favor.

After the vote, Russell declined to comment.

Swirling around the debate was the fact that the deal would have consolidated the hospital’s ownership, making it more desirable to potential buyers.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Owner of Bayfront Health St. Petersburg faces federal inquiry over funds for low-income patients

CHS is one of the nation’s largest owners and operators of hospitals with 137 of them in 21 states. But the company has struggled financially in recent years, posting heavy net losses quarter after quarter and has sold dozens of under-performing hospitals from its portfolio. The company sold its Bayfront Dade City hospital to Florida Hospital earlier this month.

But Bayfront Health CEO John McClain said there were no plans to sell and the hospital would continue to work with the city.

"We’re making a lot of infrastructure investments, capital investments, commitments in the community," he said. "And we’re making those investments to better serve the community."

Comments
Many cancer patients juggle care along with financial pain

Many cancer patients juggle care along with financial pain

Josephine Rizo survived chemotherapy, surgery and radiation, but breast cancer treatment wrecked her finances.Money was already tight when doctors told the Phoenix resident she had an aggressive form of the disease. Then she took a pay cut after goin...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Hernando County officials gather to remedy ‘dearth of services’ for youth with mental illness

BROOKSVILLE — Educators, court officials, law enforcement officers and health care professionals met Friday to identify the best ways to keep local youth with mental illnesses out of the court system and provide treatment for those already in the sys...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Give your arms a workout, too

Give your arms a workout, too

In addition to appearance, it is very important to maintain strength in those arms, as they are needed for practically every upper body movement we perform. We often take our 23 arm muscles for granted, until we reach a point where it suddenly become...
Published: 05/22/18
Intermittent fasting seems to be a good thing, new report suggests

Intermittent fasting seems to be a good thing, new report suggests

Going long hours without eating isn’t good for us, we are often told. Our bodies need fuel regularly. Otherwise, we may become lethargic, tired and hungry. Our thinking can become mushy, our ability to work, and even play, hampered.Not so fast.A new ...
Published: 05/22/18
U.S. approves first drug developed to prevent chronic migraines

U.S. approves first drug developed to prevent chronic migraines

TRENTON, N.J. — U.S. regulators Thursday approved the first drug designed to prevent chronic migraines. The Food and Drug Administration’s action clears the monthly shot Aimovig (AIM’-oh-vig) for sale. It’s the first in a new class of long-acting dru...
Published: 05/18/18
Know your blood pressure numbers? Today (May 17) is World Hypertension Day

Know your blood pressure numbers? Today (May 17) is World Hypertension Day

Today (May 17) is World Hypertension Day, and the American Medical Association is encouraging people to monitor their blood pressure levels and get high blood pressure, or hypertension, under control. High blood pressure, sometimes referred to as the...
Published: 05/17/18
Study: Depression in men may lower chances for pregnancy

Study: Depression in men may lower chances for pregnancy

Women having trouble getting pregnant sometimes try yoga, meditation or mindfulness, and some research suggests that psychological stress may affect infertility. But what about men: Does their mental state affect a couple’s ability to conceive?The la...
Published: 05/17/18
Tampa General Hospital named among top 100 in U.S., second best in Florida

Tampa General Hospital named among top 100 in U.S., second best in Florida

TAMPA—Tampa General Hospital was named one of the top 100 hospitals in America for the fifth consecutive year, and second best in Florida, according to one health industry website.Tampa General is considered the best hospital in the Tampa area, accor...
Published: 05/16/18
Joe Redner asks Florida Supreme Court: Let me grow marijuana now

Joe Redner asks Florida Supreme Court: Let me grow marijuana now

Even though a circuit judge has ruled that Tampa strip club owner Joe Redner can grow and juice his own marijuana, he was barred from doing so until the appeals process is finished.So Redner’s lawyers filed a petition with the Florida Supreme Court o...
Published: 05/15/18
Heated chemo is the key as Tampa General doctor tackles ovarian cancer

Heated chemo is the key as Tampa General doctor tackles ovarian cancer

Over the span of three weeks, Brenda Gotlen watched as her abdomen got bigger. Her lower stomach felt bloated."It got to the point that I looked nine months pregnant," said Gotlen, a 62-year-old Seffner resident. She made an appointment to see her pr...
Published: 05/15/18