TAMPA — Tampa General Hospital believes it can't stand alone forever when everybody else is consolidating. So it's headed more than 70 miles north to Citrus County, in its most visible step yet to find a partner.
The nonprofit hospital has submitted a bid to merge with Citrus Memorial Hospital, a taxpayer-supported facility looking for a buyer or partner to help it out of $83 million in debt.
TGH would not purchase the hospital but rather proposes an affiliation that it says would lead to clinical collaboration among doctors, higher insurance reimbursement rates for Citrus and cost savings for both.
Its competitors to take over Citrus Memorial include for-profit heavyweights HCA and Health Management Associates, both of which own multiple hospitals in the Tampa Bay area. They come with money: HCA's total bid is worth $291 million while HMA's two separate bids range from $238 million to $293 million. Tennessee-based RegionalCare Hospital Partners, which is owned by investment firm Warburg Pincus, submitted a $252 million bid.
Steve Short, chief financial officer at TGH, said he does not believe the money difference puts TGH at a disadvantage. He said TGH's proposal would allow local control of Citrus Memorial while the for-profit hospitals would run the facility from their corporate headquarters.
"I think we offer an alternative to those other options," he said.
The Citrus County Hospital Board will discuss the bids at a meeting Wednesday. The 198-bed Citrus Memorial in Inverness, one of two hospitals in Citrus County, was founded in 1957. Though the property is publicly owned, the county leases the hospital to a nonprofit foundation.
What would TGH get out of a deal? Short said the federal health care law is pushing medical providers toward a model that emphasizes more coordinated care of patients. That means hospitals need to build up more extensive and diverse networks of doctors and outpatient clinics. Teaming up with other institutions helps in that regard, he said. It also means the facilities could have better buying power.
"We believe we can collectively leverage economies of scale that makes them healthy and keeps us healthy," Short said. If the Citrus bid does not pan out, he said, TGH will keep looking for other partnerships.
TGH is the teaching hospital for University of South Florida medical students. TGH notified USF Health about the bid, but the medical school isn't involved in the application, said USF Health spokeswoman Anne DeLotto Baier. Short said the role of USF residents would be determined later.