May 21, 1999

More hats thrown in ring for Williamson Medical Center

More hats thrown in ring for Williamson Medical Center

More suitors have shown up at the door of Williamson Medical Center.

Earlier this week, Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. offered to purchase the hospital for $75 million. Also, Brentwood-based Quorum Health Group Inc. has signaled an interest in acquiring the 140-bed hospital.

The hospital's governing body, the Williamson Medical Center Board, has already agreed to affiliate with Vanderbilt University Medical Center to form a joint operating partnership to run the county-owned facility.

It's now up to the Williamson County Commission to decide how to proceed. A special meeting of two commission sub-committees will meet in early June to discuss the VUMC proposal.

In the past, Williamson Medical Center officials have resisted the idea of selling, especially to a for-profit company, citing concerns about service to Williamson County residents, pricing and staffing.

"The board has looked at that option, but it decided that was not in the best interest of the community," said Ron Joyner, chief executive officer of the county-owned hospital.

Under terms of the Vanderbilt proposal, VUMC would contribute approximately $11 million to establish the new operating company. Williamson County Hospital District would have a 51 percent interest in the new company, and Vanderbilt would have a 49 percent interest. The new company would also refinance the existing bonds that the county holds on Williamson Medical Center.

The new company would have a four to six member operating board, with Williamson County Hospital District and Vanderbilt each appointing half the members.

"Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Williamson Medical Center have missions that are aligned," said James Word, vice president for Network and Business Development at VUMC, who helped work out the proposed agreement.

"The proposed operating company creates a long-term partnership with an important health care system, which will help us fulfill our long-term academic and health care missions," said Norman B. Urmy, executive vice president for Clinical Affairs at VUMC.

The agreement will, in the long run, be financially advantageous for Williamson Medical Center, which would gain improved access to capital and accelerate development of new or expanded services. In addition, the proposal would be financially equivalent to the Columbia/HCA proposal, with the added bonus that Williamson County would retain control and ownership of the hospital's facilities and programs.

Urmy also noted that the proposed agreement could further VUMC's academic programs by providing future training sites and also open another avenue for clinical research.