- Upcoming auction to decide Wadley’s fate; potential buyer looks to the future
By: Ashley Gardner - Texarkana Gazette -
While ultimate ownership of Wadley Health System will be determined at a Feb. 19 auction, Brim Healthcare of Texas LLC, officials are excited about the possibilities the future may hold. “Our real intent is to have a viable hospital,” said Dave Woodland, Brim Board of Directors vice-president and former company CEO. The health care company has a binding agreement to purchase Wadley if it isn’t outbid in the upcoming auction. The auction is court requirement since Wadley filled for reorganization of debt under Chapter 11 bankruptcy in early January in the Eastern District of Texas. Brim Healthcare of Texas LLC was formed by Brim, a hospital management company out of Brentwood, Tenn., and Collom & Carney Clinic of Texarkana. The purchase would allow local physicians to become part owners of the hospital. The investment opportunity would be open to any interested physicians in the community, Woodland said. “The way it’s presently constituted, Brim would retain 80 percent and physicians 20 percent but that number can change,” Woodland said. “The physician component can go up. We’re not opposed to that.” Physician interest in the project will most likely gain strength if legislation limiting physician ownership of hospitals fails to pass. “That’s what everybody was waiting on,” said Tom Simmons, Collom & Carney CEO. Simmons is excited about the future. “This is a way to keep Wadley open. We’re very supportive of it. We want someone with significant hospital experience to continue to operate the hospital.” “Collom & Carney Clinic has been in Texarkana more than 60 years and we plan to be here for the foreseeable future. Our interest is in what’s best for the community. As far as the Brim partnership, their goals align with our goals,” Simmons said. Physician involvement isn’t about making money, Woodland said. “The intentions are right. People may misconstrue, but this isn’t about money. This is about being an active participant in the governance of a hospital,” Woodland said. There are advantages to physicians being part owners in a hospital. “There’s not one patient or one dollar generated without physicians being involved. It’s that basic. They want a place friendly to them ... that focuses more on physicians than administrators ... To have them as partners is tremendous for us,” Woodland said. “Rather than being a part of the problem, they are part of the solution.” Woodland said he’s seen many instances where hospital administrators and physicians have squared off against each other in disagreements over what services to offer or what equipment to buy. “Having physicians involved, you’d never buy an expensive piece of equipment that’s not going to be used. They’re asked their opinion and that’s what makes it a powerful partnership,” Woodland said. Until the purchase is final, there are no set-in-stone future plans for changes at Wadley. “We don’t have any preconceived ideas about what’s going to happen at Wadley ... That needs to be done with physician partners,” said Woodland, who added they have no plans to cut services and are looking more toward expanding existing services. “We know the emergency department is the portal to the hospital. That’s how most patients get into a hospital. Our intent is to make the emergency department as attractive a place as it can be,” Woodland said. “Fourteen to 16 percent of patients who use the emergency room are admitted ... so the more emergency department visits we get, the more patients we get. It’s the single biggest attractor of inpatients.” Another area Brim is interested in is neonatal care. “We see a big gap in the need. There is a big need for a neonatal intensive care unit. High-risk infants aren’t taken care of in the community. With the physician community, we’d like to explore that,” said Woodland. Brim was originally contacted by Collom & Carney about partnering in building a new hospital in Texarkana. “Back in 2007, we were approached by a consultant and representatives from Collom & Carney about their interest in developing a new hospital for the Texarkana community. Part of their concern was that Wadley wouldn’t survive financially and they wanted a choice. A competitive market is better for the community, Woodland said. “As we got into early 2008 and we were actually looking at property and visiting parcels in town ... about mid-year we were contacted by someone from the Wadley side about eventually doing business with Wadley, said Woodland. “In October, we put in a proposal to assist with keeping Wadley afloat but our proposal was turned down so we basically went back to the drawing board ... and said let’s develop a new hospital.” Brim’s offer was turned down in favor of an offer from CHRISTUS St. Michael Health System in October. That deal fell through after CHRISTUS submitted a different letter of intent and Brim got back into the mix. “We met with our physician partners and said let’s forget about the new hospital for now. Let’s build services at Wadley... Let’s expand services where necessary to attract physicians. Let’s give some competitiveness to the healthcare sector and we’re pretty excited about that,” Woodland said.