Natrona County Commission Votes to Sell Hospital Assets
The Natrona County Commission voted Thursday to sell the county's assets leased by the nonprofit Wyoming Medical Center, Inc., to the nonprofit, multistate Banner Health for $157 million during a special commission meeting on Thursday.
The county will apply the $41.3 million of that to the Wyoming Medical Center Foundation, consultant and outside counsel Jerry Bell told the commissioners and the board of trustees of the Memorial Hospital of Natrona County that oversees the Medical Center's lease of the county's hospital assets.
Commission chairman Rob Hendry said later the county intends to invest the remaining $117 million and may use the interest to supplement the county's general fund.
Before the county commissioners voted for the resolution to sell, the Memorial Hospital trustees also voted to sell the hospital assets, which are primarily in the 1200 block of East Second and East Third streets, as well as health care facilities on Casper's east and west sides.
Hendry said the sale does not mean the immediate dissolution of the Memorial Hospital Board of Trustees because of the transition as Banner Health assumes operations.
Bell presented a graphic to show how the money will flow with the county and the Wyoming Medical Center:
In explaining the need for the agreement, Bell said the traditional stand-alone community hospital is in danger, and many of them have realized they cannot surrvive without being part of a bigger system.
He also outlined how the relationship among Banner Health, the Wyoming Medical Center and Natrona County came to be.
The hospital announced in January that it signed a nonbinding letter of intent to look at a possible affiliation with Banner Health.
However, the first meetings with Banner, Wyoming Medical Center and county officials more than a year ago, Bell said.
Bell and Natrona County Attorney Eric Nelson said that lengthy time was necessary for the three entities to get to know each other, review finances, their respective roles and missions, and how such an arrangement would be good for everyone including the county.
County commissioner Brook Kaufman said some residents thought the $157 million price undervalued the county's hospital assets.
Bell responded that the company hired to set a value on the assets, VMG Health, was one of the preview hospital valuation companies in America, and the $157 million figure was accurate.
Commissioner Jim Milne said some residents were concerned that the community would lose control of the hospital.
Easton responded that the county does not have any direct control over the hospital, and surrendered that with the creation of the nonprofit Wyoming Medical Center, Inc., in 1986.
The agreement with Banner is better than what exists now, Easton said "We're actually ensuring a level of service that we can't have today."
Besides the Natrona County Commission, the Wyoming Medical Center needed its own agreement with Banner Health, and that happened Wednesday when its board of directors approved the sale to Banner.
In a prepared statement Thursday, the Medical Center said it will become Banner Health's regional referral center. Banner Health owns the Platte County Memorial Hospital in Wheatland, Community Hospital in Torrington and the Washakie Medical Center in Worland.
The WMC and Bell said the agreement will:
- Preserve and further WMC’s non-profit mission, allowing the hospital to continue providing charity and prisoner care. Natrona County will no longer need to allocate $120,000 a year to subsidize the hospital's prisoner care.
- Expand health care access in the community, region and state.
- Keep and expand the delivery of medical services in rural Wyoming.
- Maintain WMC’s Level II trauma center status in perpetuity.
- Invest $100 million in capital over the next decade for the Medical Center's facilities, technology, programs, people and operations.
- Allocate more than $220 million to the Wyoming Medical Center Foundation for health care in Natrona County, support for the hospital's facilities and technology, and other charitable efforts.
The Medical Center also said patients will continue to have access to the services and physicians they have now. Banner is committed to retaining all WMC staff with substantially the same base salaries, job duties, titles and responsibilities for at least one year.
Employees will not need to re-apply for their jobs. WMC also will maintain an open medical staff, allowing physicians to choose how they affiliate and preserving existing privileges.
The nonprofit Wyoming Medical Center Inc., was formed in 1986.
Until then, it was known as the Memorial Hospital of Natrona County, which was owned and operated by Natrona County. After the creation of the WMC, the county continued to own the physical plant of the hospital. The WMC leases the property from the county to perform health care. The WMC's rent, in effect, is to maintain the value of the physical plant and provide care for the indigent and prisoners at the county jail.
A five-member board of trustees -- called the Memorial Hospital of Natrona County -- is appointed by the Natrona County Commission and oversees the WMC's lease of the county's property.
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