Public addresses BJC lease

County leaders and staff voiced concerns on early termination.
Friday, November 3, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 12:48 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

The discussion of Boone Hospital Center’s lease with BJC HealthCare is heating up. Boone County leaders, professionals and business owners voiced their concerns with the lease at multiple meetings this week. The majority publicly spoke out against the lease.

The hospital’s board of trustees was invited to a governmental affairs meeting at the Chamber of Commerce Thursday. Trustees Robert McDavid and Fred Parry continued their public support for terminating the hospital’s lease with BJC early. Treasurer H.J. Murrell said that he and the remaining trustees, Llona Weiss and Barbara Weaver, are still “wrestling” with what position to take.

The board has the option to terminate the lease anytime before the end of 2006. The lease would end two years after the day of termination.

In mid-September, McDavid made a motion to end the lease, and the trustees have been soliciting public input about the decision since.

McDavid spoke about the hospital’s accomplishments at Thursday’s meeting. He said that the hospital entered into a lease agreement in 1988 because of problems with the Sunshine Law, not because it was a “troubled hospital,” which is usually the reason hospitals enter into such agreements.

McDavid said that the hospital has not undergone a facility expansion since 1984. He added that the last expansion should have happened at least three years ago. He said that a patient tower, which will cost the hospital over $100 million, is scheduled to be built in the next three years, but the trustees will have to allocate $8 million a year to pay for the bonds.

McDavid also said that hospital employees will not lose their retirement and health care benefits if the lease is terminated early.

Attendees at Thursday’s meeting voiced several concerns, including whether the trustees have enough time to make an informed decision within the next two months about terminating or continuing the lease.

Boone County Commissioner Karen Miller said that 8 percent of the county’s budget comes from leasing the hospital. She was concerned about where that money would come from if the lease with BJC was terminated early.

Others raised questions about the profit split between BJC and the hospital. Each year, the hospital pays about $21 million to BJC for the services it provides. That figure is made up of 50 percent of the hospital’s annual cash flow, which is about $9.7 million a year, $5.2 million for corporate services and 3 percent of the hospital’s net revenues for management services.

The trustees sent out Requests for Proposals to a number of management systems last month. They got the RFPs back on Tuesday and hired the Lewin Group, a health care consultant firm, to assess the RFPs. The report from the Lewin Group is expected to be completed by mid-November. McDavid said that the trustees will look at the RFPs primarily as a “market test” to see whether the services they receive from BJC are worth the price. In addition, the trustees will be looking at the services being offered in the proposals.

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