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Sep 21, 2011
11:37 AM
The Daily Scoop

Pardee CEO Responds to Joint Venture Criticism

Pardee CEO Jay Kirby addressed members of the Henderson County Board of Commissioners Wednesday.

Pardee CEO Jay Kirby addressed members of the Henderson County Board of Commissioners Wednesday.

Hendersonville Scoop

WHAT HAPPENED? After members of the public railed against the proposed joint venture in Fletcher between Hendersonvillle’s Pardee Hospital and Asheville’s Mission Hospital for more than 40 minutes, Pardee’s new CEO assured the Henderson County Board of Commissioners that proceeding with the partnership was in the best health care interests for residents of Henderson County.

WHY DO YOU CARE?  Health care is a very competitive business in WNC. Henderson County owns Pardee Hospital, so the decisions made should reflect the wishes of taxpayers.

HOW DID IT GO DOWN? During the public comment portion of the meeting, local residents voiced their overwhelming disapproval for the planned outpatient care facility owned and operated by Pardee and Mission near the county line largely because of the nearby presence of Park Ridge Hospital.

“I do not see any reason for this facility,” said Fletcher resident Paul Donahue. “It will only take patients away from people providing health care in our county. It will hurt both of our fine hospitals in the county. Pardee and Park Ridge are close by. This will do nothing to expand access to health care for Henderson County residents.”

Park Ridge CEO Jim Bunch was less aggressive, but none the less direct.

“We love to compete and will continue to compete, but people do have a lot of questions about this project,” Bunch said. “Our community deserves the answers. It’s time to start that dialog.”

Paige Wheeler also wanted those answers.

“No one can tell me what it is,” Wheeler told the commissioners. “With a project investing so many dollars, we need more community input.”

Fielding Lucas also echoed the requests for a public hearing to discuss the issue.

“We have public hearings for changing street names,” Lucas said to the board. “It seems to me something this worthy would merit the same. How about it?”

An official public hearing did not happen Wednesday, but later in the meeting Pardee’s new CEO Jay Kirby tried to address those concerns as directly as he could to both the full audience and the commissioners.

“Mission Hospital is going to build that building and I cannot afford Pardee Hospital not to be a part of it,” Kirby said during his 90 minutes presenting before the board. “This project is critical for Pardee’s future success. If we concede primary care in the northern part of Henderson County to Mission, then they own that market. I would rather not just walk away. If they will allow Pardee Hospital to have a part in that facility, I have to create a front door both to our hospital and for Park Ridge. I cannot allow Mission to have a groundbreaking in Henderson County without representation from this community.”

State officials recently denied Mission Hospital's request to have an endoscopy center as part of that facility. Several commissioners said that made them wonder what exactly the proposed joint venture would involve if it moved forward.

“We have never seen a business plan regarding any of this,” said Commissioner Larry Young. “We need to get to a legal agreement. I’ve used all three hospitals and have gripes about none of them. I don’t want us to be the stepchild at the family reunion when it comes to this joint venture.”

“The only thing I want to see is the documents,” added Commissioner Tommy Thompson. “I’m not the smartest tack in the box, but I can read a contract. If that document conforms to what you’ve told us, I’ll sign off on it.”

Kirby said that Pardee would privately own half of the property on which the building would be constructed, and would also have a shared role in its governance, but because his competitors in the health care industry might use some private details of Pardee business practices if he shared all information about the joint venture with the board he preferred to keep other specifics confidential at this time.

“I’m asking you not to tie my hands so I can negotiate with someone who has more power and influence than Pardee does,” Kirby said.

Commissioner Charlie Messer, who serves as the county’s representative on Pardee’s Board of Directors, said he understood and was willing to take a leap of faith with Kirby and the hospital.

“It may not be on paper, but I believe you have to trust the people you work with,” he said. “After hearing your presentation, I’m willing to support you on this.”

Commissioner Bill O’Conner, however, disagreed.

“I have asked for the basic fundamental information and we’re not getting it,” he said, adding that he had requested specific documents from UNC Hospitals about the arrangement several times and nothing had been shared. “I hope this relationship works. It’s our hospital. It’s our relationship, but it’s starting off on and incredible series of handicaps. Until I see that people are thinking about both the downside as well as the upside, I will be unalterably opposed. I remain unconvinced.”

He remained so and was the only member of the board not to support the resolution giving Pardee provisional support to continue negotiations with Mission in regards to the facility with the caveat that Kirby share more details about the facility with commissioners before any binding agreements were signed.

“If that doesn’t happen, our support goes away,” said Chairman Michael Edney. “Given where we are now, I authorize the Pardee board to move forward.”

WANT MORE? You can view the entire meeting online.

WHAT’S NEXT?  Stay tuned. This fight is just getting started.

Correspondent Jonathan Rich may be contacted at jonathan@hvillescoop.com.

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