Thursday, July 13, 2000

Only buyout can keep hospital open

Future of Dayton facility in jeopardy

The Associated Press

        DAYTON, Ohio — A decision to close Franciscan Medical Center could come as early as this week if an agreement to sell it to Vanguard Health Systems is not reached, the Dayton Daily News reported Wednesday.

        “It'll be one way or another,” Joe Mark, Franciscan's interim chief operating officer told the newspaper. “Either Vanguard makes the purchase or it closes.”

        Franciscan spokeswoman Nancy Thickel said the two sides are continuing their discussions.

        “We hope to have an announcement at the end of this week,” Ms. Thickel said. “In the meantime, rest assured that consistent quality care of our patients continues to be our No. 1 priority, just as it has always been.”

        Ms. Thickel said the hospital's nursing home will remain in operation regardless of what happens to the hospital.

        A message seeking comment was left with Vanguard.

        Hospital employee Tracey Channell said workers think their futures are up in the air.

        “We're kind of waiting to see what happens. We don't know if we're going to have jobs or not,” Ms. Channell said. “It's kind of iffy. It's not a good feeling.”

        Franciscan officials believed a sale was imminent three weeks ago, even scheduling a press conference contingent on a vote by Vanguard's board of directors. But citing sources it did not identify, the Daily News said the parties are now $6 million to $8 million apart.

        It was not clear why Franciscan Sisters of the Poor, which owns the hospital as Franciscan Health System of the Ohio Valley, might prefer to liquidate the hospital rather than accept a disappointing price. The hospital and nursing home are appraised at $107 million by the Montgomery County auditor.

        Mr. Mark said he remains optimistic as long as the parties are talking. In the meantime, the hospital and its boosters have made its urgency known to community leaders in hopes of financial help, he said.

        “I can't believe my community after all these years would let this place go under,” said Vic Cassano, the pizza magnate who has been a longtime financial supporter of Dayton's oldest hospital, formerly known as St. Elizabeth. “It took care of this community for 125 years, and they're going to let it walk away in this booming economy?”

        Mr. Mark and Mr. Cassano both expressed empathy for the employees who have been through two years of attempts to sell Franciscan.

        “The employees are all distraught,” said Mr. Cassano, a patient at the Franciscan at St. Leonard long-term care center. “It's really disheartening to think that the way they're going now, they might close the hospital down and the nuns are going to just abandon us.”


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