A physician-led group is offering to buy eight Indiana hospitals from Community Health Systems (CHS). The hospitals are part of the Lutheran Health Network, reported Modern Healthcare.
Fort Wayne, Ind., Councilman Dr. John Crawford spoke for the buyout idea, and his eight-physician practice, Radiation Oncology Associates, wrote a letter in support of the plan.
About 100 medical professionals at Lutheran Hospital also voted unanimously to support the sale of the hospital because they have "no confidence" in CHS to make decisions in the interests of patients, staff and the community. There are nearly 300 physicians reportedly involved in the buyout.
This is another step in CHS' long journey in trying to pay off its debt, which was at $14.8 billion at the end of 2016. The company announced in February it is looking to divest more than two-dozen hospitals this year after a rough 2016, in which the company lost $1.7 billion. CHS recently completed the sale of nine hospitals.
CEO Wayne Smith, however, said during a company earnings call earlier this month that there will be less of a focus on hospitals sales going forward. "There may be one or two more (divestitures), but we're not specifically thinking about doing anything significant for the rest of the year," he said.
This most recent sale includes a bruising indictment from 100 physicians that a change of hands was needed not just for financial reasons but also because of mismanagement, including not enough discretion for local executives. The doctors issued a statement in support of a sale saying: "Time is critical and any further connection to CHS will harm our organization."
The Lutheran Health Network hadn't previously been mentioned as a potential sale target. In fact, Lutheran Health Network announced a $500 million plan to invest in the system earlier this month, and Crawford said the network is profitable.
The plan calls to renovate Lutheran Hospital, expand the emergency department and build new outpatient centers among other changes. In addition to the 396-bed Lutheran Hospital in Fort Wayne, Ind., the health network includes 131-bed Dupont Hospital and 191-bed St. Joseph Hospital also in Fort Wayne.