The working group selected to discuss the sale of I.U. Health Starke Hospital to I.U. Health LaPorte met recently. Representing Starke County on the committee are Commission President Dan Bridegroom, Council President Mark Smith, and Councilmen David Pearman, Marvin McLaughlin, and Tony Radkiewicz. Hospital Community Board members Ben Bennett, Dr. Walter Fritz, and Sandy Hansen are also on the committee.
I.U. Health LaPorte is the lessee of the local facility, and according to David Hiatt, who explained the offer to local officials in October, five to seven million dollars in capital needs are required at the hospital.
“We have significant needs that must be addressed now before we start planning for the long-term facility, or what is going to happen long-term,” said Hiatt.
Hiatt said down the road a new hospital is on the drawing board to be built on the current site, or some other location. He used a figure of $40 million dollars to build a new hospital. (hiatt two)
“We want to be here to provide healthcare long-term in Starke County. We need to make our own capital investments in that facility, right now, while we plan for the future. And we need that approval from the county to move forward on that and there’s this concern about if we approve this then we’ll increase the amount the county is on the hook for. So, that’s why our first proposal says, ‘Well, let’s get the county off the hook for those liabilities,'” Hiatt said.
Already the county is “on the hook” for nine and a half million dollars in capital improvements. I.U. Health LaPorte is proposing to wipe that figure off the books if the sale is consummated.
One of the things the working group wants to get a handle on is the value of the hospital. They would like a professional firm to give advice on the true value of the hospital before going further. There was also discussion on the lease as it is written now, with some members offering opinions that possibly the lease could be addressed, and some re-wording be added.
I.U. Health LaPorte had asked for a recommendation be made by the group by April. That time may need to be extended, too, according to some of the committee members.