Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

University, Shands to Begin Talks

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

University, Shands to Begin Talks

Article excerpt

Facing deep financial trouble and the possible rejection of

its joint venture with Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp., University

Medical Center has signed an agreement to begin talks with

Gainesville-based Shands HealthCare.

Without such a back-up deal, University could face bankruptcy

if its deal with Columbia, which awaits federal approval,

collapses.

For any separate deal between University and Shands to

succeed, however, there would need to be more money from state or

local government, a top Shands official said.

"Any solution that leads to long-term success will require the

support of the community and the state," said Warren E. Ross, a

senior vice president with Shands.

University receives $18.5 million from the city, but spends an

additional $35 million paying for both indigent and uncompensated

care, according to University officials.

The coming talks, which required the consent of Columbia/HCA

Healthcare Corp., add further to the uncertainty of health care

on Jacksonville's Northside.

"All the issues will be discussed," said W.A. McGriff,

University's chief executive.

For the last 16 months, a signed agreement betrothed

University to Columbia.

Meanwhile, in February, Shands signed a letter pledging its

intent to buy Methodist Medical Center, which is across the

street from University.

Neither University nor Shands officials ruled either previous

deal dead.

The Shands-University talks may pave the way for a joint

business arrangement involving University, Shands and Columbia,

University officials said.

Or they may pave the way for a stand-alone Shands-University

deal that requires the city to increase the $18.5 million it pays

to University for indigent care, a Shands official said.

Or it might be the first sign that Columbia is seeking a

graceful exit from its controversial joint venture with

University, something which Columbia spokesman Marty Campanello

denied.

"We would still like to see the University deal work out," he

said.

But the joint venture between Columbia and University has been

held up more than a year, awaiting the approval of the Internal

Revenue Service. …

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